Ohio Bobcats

Ohio’s Jason Preston, seen here during a game against Cleveland State last season, will remain in the NBA Draft and forgo his senior season with the Bobcats.

Jason Preston decided in April to test the professional basketball waters when he officially declared for the NBA Draft.

On Wednesday, Preston made that decision a final one.

Preston will remain in the 2021 NBA Draft, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wednesday was the deadline to either remain in the draft, or return to school.

Preston will forgo his remaining eligibility at Ohio University for a shot to play professionally.

Preston has signed with agent Drew Gross or Roc Nation Sports, according to Wojnarowski.

The NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, July 29.

“First of all, I want to thank everyone for supporting me through this process. It has been an unreal experience, more than I could have ever imagined,” Preston wrote on his twitter page. “From the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate the support from my coaches, teammates and family. After much thought and prayer, I have decided to pursue a lifelong dream and keep my name in the NBA Draft!”

Preston made waves the last three seasons at the Bobcats’ point guard, culminating with last March’s run to the NCAA Tournament.

Preston was named the Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP, leading Ohio to its first tournament conference title since 2012.

Preston and No. 13 Ohio upset No. 4 Virginia, the 2019 NCAA champion, in the first game of the tournament before losing to Creighton.

“Ohio University will always have a special place in my heart,” Preston wrote. “Thank you for taking a chance on a young kid from Orlando and allowing me to represent this great university night in and night out.”

ESPN currently has Preston ranked as the No. 43 prospect in the upcoming draft. He made a strong showing in the draft combine recently, which was held in Chicago.

Preston played in 19 games in the 2020-21 season, averaging 16.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. His 31-point, eight-assist, zero-turnover game against top-10 ranked Illinois in November put him on the national radar.

The performance highlighted Preston’s rise from a high school player without a scholarship to top-rated college standout.

Preston played at Boone High School in Orlando, Fla., and averaged 2.0 points per game his senior year and had 30 assists in two seasons.

Preston kept his basketball career going when he enrolled at Believe Prep Academy, in Athens, Tenn.

Preston grew four inches, and caught the eye of Ohio coach Saul Phillips.

Phillips offered Preston a scholarship and Preston came to Athens, Ohio.

Preston talked often of the influence his mother had on his life. Judith Sewell passed away from lung cancer when Preston was 15 years old.

“It’s always your response to things in life that really matters, how you can let it affect you,” Preston said in March. “You can let bad things tear you down. You can have a a negative outlook, but that’s not going to help you at all. Keep pushing, keep fighting and know that everything happens for a reason. It’s all part of God’s plan. I know that she’s in a better place. That in itself can be a little bit comforting.”

Preston averaged 6.0 points and 3.4 assists per game as a freshman, starting 22 of the 30 games in the 2018-19 season.

Phillips’ contract wasn’t renewed after that season, and Ohio hired Jeff Boals to lead the program.

Preston’s sophomore season saw him become a full-time starter as he led the MAC in assists. He averaged 16.8 points, 7.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Jason entering the NBA Draft,” Boals said. “He is going to be a great success at the next level. His story is the American Dream and there is no one more deserving than Jason. We can’t thank him enough for all he has done here. He will be a phenomenal representative of Ohio University.”

Preston will aim to become the first Ohio men’s basketball player to be drafted since Brandon Hunter in 2003. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the second round.

Hunter is the only Bobcat to be drafted since Gary Trent declared after his junior season in 1995. He was drafted 11th that summer by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Preston will try to join Trent as the only Ohio players in the modern era to be drafted after leaving school early.

“The world deserves to know about his story,” Boals said before Ohio’s NCAA Tournament game against Virginia. “If you don’t know it, google his story because it’s a movie. I’ve been coaching 26 years and I’ve never seen somebody in his situation, where he was, in a five-year span, from 6-feet tall, 140 pounds scoring 52 points his whole senior year, to where he is today.”

The college basketball world knows all about Preston after the last three seasons, and now the point guard will look to make his mark in the NBA.

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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