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  • Kansas is in great shape to contend for what would be a 14th straight Big 12 title, with versatile forward Billy Preston figuring to play a big role for the Jayhawks.
By Dan Greene
August 22, 2017

It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.

With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 19 overall recruit, Kansas's Billy Preston.

What he means for Kansas’s recruiting class

Preston’s most immediate contribution to the Jayhawks’ incoming class was giving it claim to arguably this year’s best recruiting announcement, a minute-long video in which Preston fends off recruiting pitches from a quartet of clones outfitted in four suitors’ uniforms. More importantly, he pairs with point guard Marcus Garrett to give coach Bill Self a duo of newcomers strong enough to be considered a top-10 class nationally despite its size.

How he fits

Preston, who stands 6' 10" and weighs 240 pounds, seems as physically ready to be an early contributor as one could reasonably hope. With the Jayhawks’ turnover at the forward position, Preston will have the opportunity to make an impact right away as a versatile four who can shoot from mid- and three-point range and handle the ball, particularly while driving to the basket. That will serve Kansas well in replacing some of the production that left when one-and-doner Josh Jackson left for the NBA after excelling in a similar role at the same spot last season. That’s not to say that Preston is a Jackson clone or should be expected to play at that level, but Preston is the kind of talent that will not only find a role but thrive in it, one way or another.

Team outlook

Kansas seems almost certain to enter the season with a top-five ranking and its usual status as a Final Four and national title contender. Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and ex-Mississippi State guard Malik Newman will be an elite backcourt that few teams can match up against, while the frontcourt highlighted by Preston and seven-footer Udoka Azubuike will help round out a lineup as formidable as any in the country. There’s no reason to expect Kansas won’t be favored to win yet another Big 12 title, at the very least.

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