Clippers exclusive: Jason Preston ready to learn under Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ty Lue
The LA Clippers selected three players on NBA Draft night 2021. After coming in with just the 25th overall pick, the team made multiple moves to finish the night with the 21st, 33rd, and 51st picks. One of those picks, No. 33, was Jason Preston of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Needless to say, Preston was still in awe in the hours following the NBA Draft.
“Man, this whole experience has been amazing,” Jason Preston told ClutchPoints in an exclusive interview following the NBA Draft. “Pre-draft process, I mean, I worked out for 16 different teams, traveled all across the USA to places I’d never been.
“I was telling my friends and family even before all this that LA has always been a dream place for me to go and just being there. It was unbelievable. I actually got out there a couple days earlier with my cousin and we just went to Venice Beach and we saw another attraction I forgot, but it was crazy because because it was like 70 degrees outside and I kind of sunburned and it was like a nice breeze outside. It was well worth it. I was just blown away by the weather, the scenery, it was unbelievable. ”
The 21-year old Preston played three years in college, but didn’t really blossom until his sophomore season, averaging 16.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.4 steals on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.7 percent from beyond the arc. He put up very similar numbers his junior year playing four fewer minutes per game while maintaining his shooting efficiency.
The Clippers brought Jason Preston in for two workouts, neither of which were made public in the weeks leading up to the Draft.
“I worked out twice with them,” Jason Preston revealed. “I felt like I had pretty good workouts and I know a point guard is a position in need that they wanted to handle. I’ve had a lot of conversations, then right before the pick came on, I got the call. I got to talk to Lawrence, I got to talk to Steve Ballmer. I mean it was just an unbelievable experience knowing that my name was about to get called. And like I said, Ahhh, I’m just at a loss for words.
“I can’t say enough, first of all about the team and the front office. I’m sorry, I’m rambling a little. I’m just excited.”
President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank spoke highly of Preston following the Draft, highlighting his accomplishments as a junior at Ohio.
“We saw him a bunch last year,” Frank said. “And then this year, I think everyone took notice when his game at Illinois, the going in there and beating them. He’s the MAC Player of the Year, they win a MAC Conference Tournament. They defeat Virginia in the first round, and when we brought him in, even though he’s 21, we’re like, wait a minute, like he has so much growth, we think we can get his body a lot stronger. We think we can continue to improve his shot, even though the percentage looks good.”
The Clippers roster, although capable of competing for a championship when healthy, still has some holes in it. For one, the point guard position and playmaking positions are razor thin, at least until free agency pans out. At this point, Paul George is expected to play the role of main ball-handler.
Depending on what happens over the next couple of weeks, the Clippers could be looking at giving their rookies roles in a season that might not feature Kawhi Leonard for most of it.
“We thought he was the second-best catch in this draft behind Giddey,” Frank added. “He has unbelievable vision, terrific pick-and-roll player. Guys are really going to enjoy playing with him. Can make passes with either hand. And for a guy who is not — even vertically, he’s actually a pretty good athlete. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has unbelievable feel, and his ability to get to spots, he has an unorthodox game. And we just really felt like it was a quality we wanted to add to the group.”
The idea of joining a team that has Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and so many other veteran players already intrigues Jason Preston, who wants to be a sponge.
NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN/CANNOT DO
— Jason Preston (@Treballjay11) July 30, 2021
“Man, I just can’t wait to learn. I’ve watched so much of them, and not just of them, but the entire Clippers team. Pat Bev, Rondo, Zubac, Terance Mann, the list goes on and on. I’m just go excited to learn and ask questions, be a part of that culture. Ty Lue, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things as the head coach. I’m just excited.”
For the Clippers, the belief in the a guy who an afterthought in basketball years a few years ago is something that goes beyond the sport itself. Preston jumped from prep school to prep school, eager to pursue a simple opportunity to showcase his skills. He found himself on a school’s third team and worked his way to the first team, earning scholarship offers before ultimately choosing to attend Ohio.
“We recruit people, not just players,” Lawrence Frank explained. “They obviously have to be good enough, but it is about people, and you’re placing, for lack of a better term, you’re placing bets on guys to have NBA careers. You guys know the odds when you’re picked late in the first or if you’re picked in the second round, invariably, 20 guys in a draft make it in terms of playing beyond three to five years.
“So you’re betting on the person and with all the guys that we drafted, we obviously value competitiveness and high work rate, a love of the game and the ability to keep what’s important, make sure it’s important. And these guys are young guys, but we’re really, really enthusiastic about the type of people we added to the group.”
— Jamal Cristopher (@JamCristopher) July 30, 2021
So where does Preston anticipate himself helping the most given a role in the rotation?
“I think with Kawhi getting hurt last year and in the postseason, you saw Paul George really had to do a lot on his own and really had to manufacture a lot of buckets. Maybe I can be the type of player that can relieve pressure off of him or if he needs a guy to catch-and-shoot or somebody who can bring versatility on both ends of the ball. Guard ones and twos, making plays for others, that’s something that I love to do. And also just be a positive impact on the culture, like I said. They’re getting a positive guy in the locker room, on the court, I just can’t wait.”
Before Jason Preston became an NBA player, he was planning to pursue a journalism career to remain in the sport. He even wrote for Fansided’s Piston Powered covering the Detroit Pistons, the team he grew up watching and loving.
“I hardly played at all when I was in high school, so people were always telling me you gotta do something else besides playing basketball and if I wasn’t gonna play basketball, I was gonna do something related to basketball. Like I said, I read about it a lot, I wrote about it a lot, I watch it a lot, so I thought writing about it would be perfect, so I wanted to get my opinions on it. I was a Pistons fan growing up, that was like the first team I watched with like Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Sheed, Ben Wallace. That’s the team I wrote about. I DM’d Duncan Smith, editor for Pistons Powered, allowed me to do some articles. I had a couple on Bleacher Report actually.
Thankfully, the new Clippers guard says he’s not coming for any of our jobs anytime soon.
“Not for now,” Preston said, letting out a laugh. “Not for now. You guys are good.”
“I’m excited and it really seems like there’s a genuine love with me and the front office and I’m very appreciative of that.”
Preston will participate in the NBA’s 2021 Summer League, where he’ll have a chance to showcase his skills alongside new teammates Keon Johnson and Brandon Boston.