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The UCF Connection in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

One of the best stories in college basketball has a tie to UCF

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament - Ohio vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Preston is the subject of one of the best stories in college basketball.

If you don’t know about Preston’s road to the NCAA Tournament, you should. You’ll hear all about it when Preston’s Ohio Bobcats meet the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night. And that road includes a stop at UCF.

Today, Preston is a legitimate star with NBA prospects. The guard averages 17 points and about six rebounds and six assists per game for Ohio. But just a few years ago, such results on the court seemed unfathomable.

Preston averaged just 2 points per game in his senior season at Boone High School. The Orlando native has always loved basketball — a love instilled in him by his mother, who passed away due to lung cancer when Preston was just 16 years old — but when he graduated from Boone, he was just 6 feet tall and weighed 140 pounds. If he couldn’t make a career playing basketball, Preston planned to write about it instead.

According to this story from NCAA.com:

“So Preston applied to in-town UCF as a regular student, aiming to major in journalism, having written stories for a website.”

Preston took classes at UCF during the 2017 summer semester. Then a friend told him about an AAU team that had an open roster spot, which Preston filled. Long story short, those AAU games led him to a prep school in Tennessee where, with the help of some social media savvy, he caught the eye of Ohio University.

That is the greatly abridged version. Go click that link above or read this recent piece by Yahoo’s Pete Thamel to dig deep into Preston’s fascinating journey to college basketball stardom.

That 6-foot kid everyone overlooked is now a 6-foot-4 playmaker who will have NBA scouts following his every move this weekend. You should too, as the 13th-seeded Bobcats will tip off against the fourth-seeded Cavs at 7:15 p.m. Saturday on TruTV.

Can we claim someone who spent just a handful of weeks enrolled at UCF? This year, as far as the men’s tournament goes, why not? It’s about as close as we’ll get to having the UCF Knights in the Big Dance.