(TNS) — Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has implemented a four-guard lineup the majority of the time in the Jayhawks' first two exhibition games of the 2017-18 season.
Self is not guaranteeing that alignment will continue into the regular season, however, especially if 6-foot-10, 240-pound freshman forward Billy Preston emerges as the force Self believes he can be.
"Have you guys noticed how talented he is?" Self said enthusiastically at Thursday's Williams Fund-sponsored KU Roundball Luncheon at the Wichita Marriott Hotel. "Have we had anybody 6-10 that can shoot, run, jump and handle? I mean this dude is ridiculously talented.
The question is whether Preston will give maximum effort on a more consistent basis. If so, he could garner a lot of minutes playing next to 7-foot sophomore Udoka Azubuike with just three guards running the perimeter.
"If you have a 10-speed bicycle and it gets to a 10th gear ... his would max out about third gear," Self said of McDonald's All-American Preston. "He needs to be able to play harder with spurts and things like that, give second, third effort.
"He's a remarkable talent. (But) he's behind in my mind from an energy, effort standpoint. If he had Josh's intangibles effort-wise," Self added, referencing Phoenix Suns rookie and former KU wing Josh Jackson, "people wouldn't be talking about Josh, they'd be talking about Billy because he can shoot so well and is so big.
"He's one of those guys that can be great or one of those guys who can be just OK depending on the situation. If he becomes really good, we'll be really good up front with he and Udoka. If not we'll play a lot of four guards and he'll probably be Udoka's backup."
Preston scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds while in 15 minutes in a 93-87 victory over Missouri on Oct. 22 at the Sprint Center. He scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, but committed four fouls, while playing just eight minutes in Tuesday's 100-54 win over Pittsburg State at Allen Fieldhouse.
Preston left that game for the locker room early in the second half after getting hit in the head while committing a charging foul. He returned to the bench but did not re-enter the game.
"He's fine. He got hit in the noggin," Self said at the luncheon. "When you come down and you charge and it's your fourth foul in eight minutes, his head really started hurting. But the reality is Billy is fine."
Self kidded about the play in which Preston was dazed.
"He lay on the ground how long? Two guys had to carry him off the floor. Three minutes later he's back on the bench," Self said. "He did get hit hard. It was a legitimate hit. We wouldn't have let him play the remainder of the game either way. But I think the charge ... it was one against four and losing the ball and all that stuff probably played a role in how much (his head hurt)."