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Billy Preston, a former five-star recruit, is among the most prominent names at the center of an FBI investigation into Kansas basketball. The inquiry stems from illegal payments that were made to players within the program by Adidas representatives.
The Jayhawks play just a small part in of one of the biggest criminal cases in collegiate sports history.
Preston, a McDonald’s All-American, chose Kansas over offers from Indiana, Syracuse, USC and Arizona, among others. However, he never played a game for the Jayhawks.
After arriving to campus, Preston was held out of the Kansas lineup indefinitely while under investigation by the NCAA. The governing body of college sports was looking into an on-campus car accident that occurred on November 8, 2017.
It was a big deal at the time and remains so today in the bigger scheme of the current FBI investigation.
Preston’s time with the program is now part of a larger saga. Silvio De Sousa, another member of the 2017 recruiting class, is also named in the investigation.
The Jayhawks, which self-imposed sanctions and admitted some guilt back in November, wrapped their infractions hearing over the weekend. They continue push for subdued penalties.
According to Preston, he and De Sousa were among a group of players that allegedly received money from an Adidas bag man. His account of what happened is well-detailed on ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast ‘Bag Game,’ which looks at the NCAA basketball scandal.
In the eyes of Billy Preston, Kansas “wasn’t no victim.”
He says that the program had a direct role in arranging the payments. The bag man involved has testified that he tried to keep his activity under wraps, and away from the university – that’s an important note — but Preston alludes to that being untrue.
As soon as we got to KU, I’m an Adidas kid now that I play for KU. He (T.J. Gassnola) is an Adidas rep. They’re an Adidas school. They put us together just off the strength of them being an Adidas school and them having that type of power where they can be like, they can tell him, ‘Oh yeah, we want you to get in contact with Billy. We want you to tap in with Billy and get that whole process rolling.’ Yeah, that’s the only thing I’m going to say about that. KU wasn’t no victim.— Billy Preston, via 30 for 30 Podcast
Back in 2018, Gassnola — an ex-Adidas consultant — testified that he paid Preston’s family $89,000. When asked if he knew about the payments, Preston said that he and Kansas were aware.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. They wasn’t blind to that. They weren’t blind to that at all.— Billy Preston, via 30 for 30 Podcast
He did not stop there.
When Kansas received its amended notice of allegations in 2020, it pinned blame on Adidas. The university said that it was “a victim of Gassnola’s and (former Adidas exec) James Gatto’s crimes.”
Preston shut that down.
They ain’t no victim, they knew what was going on, too. They put the whole thing together and set it up. Like, KU was the whole reason we even met.— Billy Preston, via 30 for 30 Podcast
Although none of this is particularly earth-shattering, and it is only Preston’s account of what happened, it doesn’t reflect well on the Jayhawks. Their consistent denial of widespread wrongdoing does not exist in parallel to what their former player is saying they did.
Now that Kansas’ infraction hearing is over, the program will await a resolution. It could come by late summer.