Meet Billy Preston: 6th man

  • I’ve been waiting for a great 6th man who is a 6-9 future NBA star!

  • If we can teach our post guys to pass well… shouldn’t he be on the floor with Doke much of the time?

    It seems like those two together could really pound some offense on all teams in D1!

  • I hope he starts by the end of the year. Instead of Svi.

  • Billy needs to start. Our offense is much more dynamic with him because he has a legit post game and outside shot, plus he’s 6-10.

  • Self faces an interesting problem with this roster and as usual it will be an education to watch how he deals with it.

    The problem is that he has a roster best suited to sustaining 4 out 1 in offense, in terms of rotating players and sustaining “who we are.”

    With this sort of roster, what he should do is rotate Doke and Billy, because his only other big man is Lightfoot and Lightfoot is not really a credible replacement for either Doke, or Billy, that lets “who we are” continue.

    I am not knocking Lightfoot here. Its just that Lightfoot doesn’t really do anything Doke does, and he doesn’t do anything that Billy does. Bringing in Lightfoot, to replace either Doke, or Billy, forces the team to play a different way.

    By playing 4 out 1 in, and rotating Doke and Preston, the team gets to keep playing as “who we are.” Preston is different from Doke, but both are long, and both can play the 5 role, especially in college.

    Lightfoot just doesn’t match up with other big post men. The ideal role for Lightfoot is to rotate into the 5, when the other team has a small 5 that is too mobile for Doke to chase and stay out of foul trouble guarding. During those games, we stay 4 out 1 in, but we rotate Billy and Lightfoot, and sustain “who we are” at a shorter, more mobile level at the 5.

    Self’s great strength over the years has been able to find schemes that both get our best players on the floor most of the time, and simultaneously allow us to sustain “who we are” any given season. Self adapts who we are a little from game to game, but has also been able to sustain those variations for a game.

    Self’s ability to do the above is a great strength, because it allows Self to scheme and practice the team so that it gets to sustain what it has learned and practiced how to do. KU has tended to be able to survive injuries, off-games, and so on, and keep being “who we are”, while other teams are having to take breaks from who they are, and become something else several times a game. This means KU gets to spend more time at its most effective than the other teams. Over the course of a 40 minute game, this is a big edge.

    If Self schemes the team effectively (i.e., so his best players are on the floor, and so he gets to sustain “who we are” also), then Self gets to spend all his brain power on finding clever plays after time outs, and after free throws, and less time scheming new versions of who we are.

    But the problem this season is: Doke and Preston are both among his best players, and so they need to be on the floor most of the time together. But if he does that, and optimizes who we are around what those two extraordinary athletes can do, it creates a “who we are” that is not sustainable with Lightfoot. In turn, it means Self has to coach two kinds of “who we are” and in his career, so far, he has avoided that like the plague, and won 83% of his games and umpteen rings.

    So Self has a choice: he can make Preston a sixth man and have a sustainable “who we are.” Or he can start Preston and Doke and create two “who we ares”.

    Now, I have felt us at this point a time or two over the years and he has found a third path I did not see, so maybe he will do his hat rabbit thing again and find some form of offense that allows Lightfoot to substitute for Doke, or Billy, that keeps us “who we are.”

    But I will say it right now. If Self can find a sustainable “who we are” starting Doke and Preston, he is Penn and Teller on Steroids!

  • @drgnslayr

    I suspect your reference to “passing well” is the key to how he will try to create a sustainable “who we are” that includes starting Doke and Billy.

    He cannot wave a wand and turn Lightfoot into a guy with Doke’s dominance, or Billy’s offensive moves.

    But what he could do is craft an interior motion and passing offense that all three big men could learn the footwork and passing for, and so execute regardlesss of which of the three are in the game. Then depending on which two are in the game, certain plays could be relied on more with one kind of player than another.

    But Self has never really coached this kind of interior motions and passing offense before. He is generally loath to have one big man screen for another. He doesn’t really like screening inside, or outside.

    I suppose he could resort to Bad Ball again, because all three guys might be capable of putting the ball on the deck and taking it to iron. (Note: I pause here to let the screaming and gnashing of teeth die down.)

    Whatever, he’s got to find something all three guys can be threats doing, not just two of them, otherwise there is no continuity of who we are.

  • @HawkChamp I think he will start eventually.

  • @jaybate-1.0 He said we’d play 4 out 50% of the time… However, if we continuously run into foul trouble, which we very well could, it could be 100% in order to protect the bigs from fouling. Nice post.

  • Doke and Billy sounds like the title of a movie set in the deep South. Is there a hot car involved?

  • @jaybate-1.0 Whether Billy starts or not, I imagine he and Doke will be on the floor together about 15 minutes a game with Lightfoot getting a few minutes subbing for each and the rest with 4 guards.

  • We’ve kind of seen this stuff before – I say Preston starts no later than Nov. 28 game vs. Toledo, and accompanying that change Self says how terrific a player Svi is, that he’s an NBA player, that KU is just much better with Svi coming of the bench, providing a spark and a change of pace, and providing 3 point shooting. If it’s Vick that doesn’t start, then it’s more likely helping Svi since he’s a senior and has the draft right in front of him. Just my thought.

  • If Preston was a guy who was ready to play 35 mpg, I would say start him and rotate him between the 4 and 5 because he is capable of playing in the low post and on the perimeter. But Preston is not that guy, he’ll probably be a 20-25 minute guy this year with most of those minutes subbing for Azubuike, so it does make more sense with the current personnel to have Preston off the bench to me.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10

    Good points. Preston had 5 fouls in 15 minutes against MU while Doke had 2 in 27 minutes; what a difference one year makes. Until Billy learns to play without fouling I see Lightfoot catching a fair number of minutes.

  • @JayHawkFanToo You think they’ll play Lightfoot over Vick or Svi? I think if Billy or Doke get in foul trouble, we’ll go four out with Vick and Svi, and play with 1 big. Just my opinion.

  • @JayHawkFanToo don’t you think he was going after it knowing he had 7 to give?

  • @Crimsonorblue22 impossible

  • @Barney

    That’s how it looks without a hat rabbit.

    But I just can’t imagine him letting two players as potentially complementary and frankly devastating in tandem only playing 15 minutes per game together.

    He at least has to try to find a way to get them 25-30 together. They will have to play that much together to beat good big teams in March.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Seems likely, but…

    Self usually anticipates injuries.

    If he starts Doke and Preston and plays them big minutes, and one goes down, then it will be a very ugly, 83%-W&L threatening transition.

  • #Free Billy.

    We need him to start don’t we?

    4 guards is great but you get a lot of the skills that we want that 4th guard to compensate for height/weight etc with him right? Of course he’s a freshman and will have an adjustment to playing the way Self wants him to but if your not starting him your really limiting the potential of the team in the long run. A 4 man with inside/out skills and the height/athletic ability to do some dirty work.

    I think we need to commit to playing Preston in a starters role now. 30 + games to see what he and Doke can provide playing with each other. Obviously there will be plenty of situations where we have to go small with 4 guards but why should that be the normal? If Preston is as good as advertised the long-term potential of this team is right in line with what we want, a ship!

  • @BeddieKU23 like you said, probably depends on matchups and how well the guards rebound. Speed kills!

  • It’s also never mattered to Self who starts, but who finishes

  • @jaybate-1.0 of which there are only two or three, and we already beat one and play the other on the 14th. The third is Louisville, but the odds of playing any one team in March is very low. I think they proved last year against Purdue and others that playing against size and winning isn’t an issue like it used to be.

    The real difficulty lies in defeating teams whose identity is physical defense (Nova, Michigan State, Oregon and WVU). Those are the teams Self has struggled against and those are the primary culprits for his tourney exits. Like I’ve said before, the game in Morgantown is an indicator of tourney success and that will be true this year too.

  • @jaybate-1-0 Well, he can’t wrap them in bubble wrap. You think he’s really going to try to protect guys by limiting minutes? No real historical precedence for that with Self – he’s beaten guys in to submission with minutes.

    Udoka got hurt in practice last year. In 2012, we had basically Withey and TRob and an injury to one of them pretty much doomed any FF chances. You know Self wants to be more conventional. Personally, I think the only thing that holds that back is Self’s belief as to Preston’s readiness.

    I think he’s looking to that short-benched team and really enjoying the idea that he doesn’t have to worry about playing anybody. And 8 man rotation is perfect. And given the fact that we’re now experience in the 4 guard deal, we can use our flexibility to exploit weaknesses — that is why I’m not totally concerned about our lack of depth. I have confidence we could play with Lightfoot on the court in the middle, and with four guards, and we could still outscore teams. And that’s all that matters. Scoring more than the opponent. That would not have been the case before his very wise adaptation to his talent.

  • @BeddieKU23 And gotta get Preston those big minutes – experience. He needs to be the “sophomore” folks speak of by the end of the season. Minutes won’t be the issue I’m sure. Very excited to Garrett develop too. Really like what I see there, but on that not so great scrimmage feed, I kept confusing him with Vick (and that silly hair).

  • @HighEliteMajor

    It’s a big choice.

    1.) Start both bigs, lose one for a few games, or season, and have to re-scheme completely from 3-2 to 4-1.

    2.) Start 1 and rotate the other and if he loses one just keep with the scheme and bring Lightfoot in for 5-10 per game to be a place holder for breathers.

    It really comes down to whether Doke and Preston are good enough rebounders on their own (without the other on the floor) to be able to play 4-1 with them rotating. If so, it’s the smart play. But each of their reboundomg really sucked against Fizzou. So it’s not looking likely.

    So Self has to play them both at the same time just to not suck on the glass.

    At that point KU is easy to beat. Sick the Blue Meanies on Preston’s long twigs, get him out and KU is toast.

    My hunch is Self will try to stay small through precon to teach his rotation smalls at 4 out to rebound. Good luck. Svi seems the only candidate. Unless Cunliffe re-materializes. And Svi is likely to struggle in Josh’s role from last season.

    And can anyone envision Doke grabbing 10-15 rpgs right now, after the showing at Fizzou? 🤔

    With so short a bench, the season depends precariously on Svi.

    Even if everyone else comes through like gangbusters, without Svi fulfilling his Poe, this team is 1 injury to either Doke, or Preston, from .500.

  • @jaybate-1.0 a lot of assumptions and ifs in that post.

    I like HEM’s solution and I think it is probable. We will see quite a bit of Dok and Billy together. Self is a traditional oriented coach and always wants to do his bread and butter first. If not for Bragg’s antics, we would have been much more traditional last year. I personally prefer a traditional and taller lineup with a fast four/stretch four like Carolina had this past year and the year before.

    What I am struggling with is why do so many think we need to choose between 3-2 and 4-1? If Dok and Billy are in together, we play traditional. When Dok sits, four out one in. To me, we have several options offensively to be effective so let’s not over think this one. I doubt self is thinking “ok in case Dok gets hurt we’ll do this” or something along those lines.

    Btw, Self said yesterday that he expects more rebounding out of Svi and Vick. As was discussed on another thread, long rebounds necessitate the guards being engaged on rebounding the miss. We cant expect Dok to go all the way out to the free throw line extended and snag a rebound. It must be done by committee.

  • It’s just jaybate being jaybate.

  • @BShark yeah I know. Have you been able to locate a replay of the Missouri game? I’ve been checking but nothing so far

  • @HawkChamp The game was up briefly on youtube but got taken down. Only highlights now.

  • HighEliteMajor said:

    @BeddieKU23 And gotta get Preston those big minutes – experience. He needs to be the “sophomore” folks speak of by the end of the season. Minutes won’t be the issue I’m sure. Very excited to Garrett develop too. Really like what I see there, but on that not so great scrimmage feed, I kept confusing him with Vick (and that silly hair).

    I love the 4 guard offense and the offensive approach we have adapted due to personnel. I just think long term playing Billy as many minutes with Doke will benefit this team tremendously. I think by the end of the season that pair could be one of the most feared duo’s in CB The potential is certainly there

    Big fan of Garrett, excited to see how he does under pressure situations. We need him to fill an important role this season and he looks fully capable of doing so. Seems to have been prepared about as well as any HS kid could be coming in. Love his potential this season and beyond.

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    I seriously doubt he would do that since fouls usually result in points or possession for the other team. Doke had only 2 in almost twice as many minutes.

  • @BeddieKU23

    As coach Self has said, Garret can play 1-4 as needed. He will play several of those positions depending on the opponent and foul situation. I believe he guarded Porter and did a nice job. Nice to have a versatile player you can plug in almost anywhere.

  • @HawkChamp and @BShark

    Its really just Self being Self.

    He has long tended to try to identify who we are and then continually strive to play that way, as much as possible, so as to get better and better at playing as “who we are.”

    He IS a traditional coach. And he DOES believe that practice makes perfect. And if his teams are constantly shifting between playing inside out and outside in, he tries to find a way to juggle the roster so that they can play one way or the other.

    Of course he can do both. Someone said he had already said he thought they would play 4-1 about 50% of the time, which is his short hand for we are also going to play 3-2 50% of the time, which in turn implies he is going to try scheming this team two play both sets, and each about half the time.

    But we recall that Self OFTEN shifts gears about the scheme, once or twice during pre conference season.

    Self is signaling to opposing coaches the 50/50 scenario to opposing coaches to make them have to prep for both, until he decides if it will work, or if he will be committing to one way, or another.

    I’m pretty confident Self will not be able to string this bow 50/50 between the two schemes. Why? Because neither Doke, nor Preston appear to be strong natural rebounders and, at the same time, he does not have a Josh Jackson this season that can get an adequate share of boards at the 4 playing short in a 4-1. So: he is going to be flying by the seat of his pants trying to figure out how to play the game so that his team can get enough of the caroms to be competitive on the two thirds of the games when they are either shooting middling, or poorly.

    Its more complicated that just throwing his two best bigs out there on the floor at the same time.

    The chances that Doke and Preston are going to be able to play more than 20 minutes a piece on any given night are iffy, given Preston’s youth and Doke’s historical tendency to foul. If Self commits to Doke and Preston as 30 minute men, then he is going to have to have them sag way off their men to keep them from fouling.

    To avoid having to play them 30 sag-off minutes, playing them each 20 minutes in a rotation at full intensity seems much more effective to me; that way the team is not wasting a lot of development time on learning to play both ways, and not having to play most of the games with its best players playing at 2/3s intensity to avoid fouls.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I understand the MU game is a small sample but in that game Doke had only 2 fouls in 27 minutes while Preston had 5 in just 15. It looks like Doke has come a long ways foul-wise while Preston has a long way to go.

  • JayHawkFanToo said:


    As coach Self has said, Garret can play 1-4 as needed. He will play several of those positions depending on the opponent and foul situation. I believe he guarded Porter and did a nice job. Nice to have a versatile player you can plug in almost anywhere.

    We need all the good defenders we can get. Garrett may get more time then expected because of that alone.

  • @BeddieKU23

    Agreed. Defense has always been Coach Self’s trademark and the last couple of years it has not been nearly as good as what, I am sure, he expects. Now that he has a rim protector I will guess he will ratchet up the defense and Garrett will be a big part of it.

  • I am incredibly excited about Garrett. Vick’s my top guy this season, but seeing how the players see him as the top defender, he’s got four year stud written all over him.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Good point about the D. The last few years have been difficult to watch on that side of the ball. It’s maybe no coincidence that the rule changes the last few years have had an impact on Bill Self’s pressure man physical style. We’ve seen him adjust his offensive philosophy to take advantage of personnel and create scoring. Maybe he needs to change up his defensive philosophy and figure out a different way to approach stopping opposing teams. I’d even suggest the pack-line defense that Virginia & Arizona among teams have employed to stop offensives. The Missouri game certainly didn’t inspire confidence that we were going to be anything more then average if that’s the defense we are going to see more of.

    We hope that Doke, Preston & Lightfoot provide more rim-protection out there. Maybe our biggest weakness last season was how many baskets we gave up inside because of the lack of shot blocking. I think our rotations were very poor overall as well. We’ll certainly know soon enough whether the offense is going to have to be on every night or not.

  • @BeddieKU23 Didn’t look like Self did much coaching in that game.

  • Self’s comments from the Kusports article are not exactly promising.

    Nothing we didn’t already know about Preston. This is really his first go around with everyday, every play, expectations.

    Issue is comments like that make you think well, Lightfoot better be ready

  • @BeddieKU23 It’s going to be a battle, probably all season. If Self solves the riddle in under one season he deserves an award. This has always been the concern with Billy.

  • The season hasn’t even started yet. I’ll wait to form any conclusions about what I see on the court.

  • HawkChamp said:

    The season hasn’t even started yet. I’ll wait to form any conclusions about what I see on the court.

    We have seasons of evidence from HS. Of course otoh he has never been coached as hard as Self will coach him. I’m hopeful that he can improve his effort before the tournament. I’m not sure he is aloof like Wiggins but he is probably closer to Wiggins than he is Jackson in that regard.

  • @BShark yes but from what everyone was saying it sounded like he was Carlton Bragg 2.0. From the game Sunday, that does not appear to be the case, hence my skepticism.

  • @HawkChamp I do think he will be better than Bragg. He should also play more by necessity.

  • Good thing Traylor isn’t here or Preston wouldn’t play at all.

  • I’m not sure anyone could play as bad as Bragg was last year.

    This is obviously coach speak to motivate Billy. We see it all the time. If we had depth Preston would probably be eased into PT. Since we don’t have that luxury he’s going to get the opportunity to play through his weaknesses.

  • @BeddieKU23 bingo

  • The knock on Preston has always been that he was lackadaisical and many attributed it to the lack of competition at the HS level. He is now playing in the big pond and if he doesn’t get his rear end in gear he will find himself riding the pine. He turned 20 yesterday so he is not young kid and only a few months younger than Svi who turned 20 in June.

  • HighEliteMajor said:

    Good thing Traylor isn’t here or Preston wouldn’t play at all.

    Lightfoot could take that role. All the factors are there–undersized yet forced by lack of depth into the post, praised for his energy, can’t really shoot from outside, occasional exciting block but occasional bone-headed play, fan favorite… Wow, if any of the other front court players fails to perform or makes HCBS mad, I think he might be starting soon and even be able to make you forget JamTray while taking you into familiar territory: 😰

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