Ashton Hagans has started to blossom since December. The former five-star recruit out of Cartersville, Georgia has earned the starting role at Kentucky since Quade Green left the team for Washington. While offensive numbers have not been astounding, it is his tenacious attitude on the defensive end and his production on defense that make him an intriguing NBA Draft Prospect. The most impressive thing is, he should be in high school right now! Last summer he moved up from the 2019 class to the 2018 class to join John Calipari’s team for this season.
Ashton Hagans Overview
The season began with Sophomore Quade Green as the starting point guard for the Kentucky Wildcats. Even Immanuel Quickley started the season ahead of Hagans in the rotation. However, since the transfer of Green, Ashton Hagans has taken over as the man at point guard. Before the transfer, Hagans only averaged 19MPG, ever since he has averaged 31MPG. After posting 8STL against UNC at the CBS Sports Classic, Hagans had a homecoming against Georgia. In that game, he posted a line of 23PTS, 5REB, 4AST, and 4STL.
The young point guard has been gaining traction in mock drafts recently. NBADraft.net has Hagans projected as the 27th pick to the Brooklyn Nets in their latest mock draft. The thing that makes Hagans interesting as a draft prospect is he only averages 7.6PPG. His three-point shooting ability is not great, 27% on the season. However, he has abilities that other Calipari point guards possess.
His calm demeanor allows him to make great decisions with the ball, his speed allows him to get to the basket on fast breaks or off the dribble, and his defense allowed him to average almost two steals per game in his 15 conference games this season while posting averages of 10 points and 5.1 assists per game. If the trend keeps up, more NBA teams will be taking a look at Ashton Hagans.
Ashton Hagans has been the motor of this Kentucky team at times. In a tough road environment at Auburn, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, Keldon Johnson was struggling and making poor decisions as soon as the ball was tipped. That was until Ashton Hagans told him to, “Wake the f–k up!” The leadership of Hagans is impressive considering he is only a freshman. His shooting ability leaves much to be desired from an NBA point of view, but there is no doubt he possesses tangibles that are essential on the next level.
When you watch Ashton Hagans play, you see that dog mentality that so many other Calipari point guards have had. It is that attitude that makes you go, “Wow!” when you watch a Derrick Rose, John Wall, or De’Aaron Fox. He isn’t as talented offensively as those guys are, and I don’t think he will ever be. However, defensively on the perimeter, he may be the best of all of John Calipari’s guards, and his speed and attitude remind you of the prototypical Calipari guard.
2019 NBA Draft
Ashton Hagans’ defense is on another level. Clearly one of the best defenders in the NCAA and one of a few players in the running for SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The question is, can his offense be fixed? Sure, he can drive to the basket and his mid-range jumpers, but the NBA has evolved. Without being a threat from deep, many teams may not want to take a chance on him this season.
The best thing for Hagans if he were to go into the draft, is landing on a team that is willing to invest in him. A team that has an established point guard, like Brooklyn, may be able to give him the time to develop his shooting ability. His mechanics aren’t horrible. His shot can be fixed, and his defensive ability and speed are NBA ready.
If Ashton Hagans does decide to come back for a second year, he can potentially improve his stock. If he were able to show an improved offensive ability, better finishing in the lane and three-point shooting, he may work his way into the 14-20 range. Right now, ESPN has projected him to be the 20th overall pick for the 2020 Draft. Two NBA scouts talked to WDRB’s Rick Bozich February 21 and one said:
“Ashton Hagans is probably a year away. His defense and ball-handling have been solid, but you want to see more from his offensive game.”
If Ashton Hagans decides to come back, the Wildcats could be stacked yet again. The incoming freshman as of right now will be Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Dontaie Allen. It is assumed Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery will be back as well. If Calipari is able to work his magic and get a couple more recruits like Matthew Hurt, Keion Brooks, or a possible reclassify or graduate transfer, Ashton Hagans has the potential to be the missing piece to another championship run.
Honestly, it is hard to tell what Ashton Hagans is going to do. As a fringe first-round pick in this year’s draft, it would make sense to come back and bet on himself to improve his draft stock. I fully expect Hagans to enter his name in the draft and go through workouts with teams, and probably go through the NBA Combine. These workouts are going to be essential to whether or not he stays or goes.
John Calipari has never been the one to ask a player to come back if they are going to be a first-round pick. There will be meetings with Hagans and his family and discussions will occur whenever the season ends. How deep Kentucky goes in the NCAA Tournament could be a huge factor as well. Playing well on the biggest stage never hurts your stock and deep runs in the tournament have helped players from Kentucky in the past improve their stock.
Ashton Hagans still has opportunities to show off his offense and try to convince some teams to take a chance on him. For right now, I would assume that Ashton Hagans is going to be gone after this season. John Calipari will encourage Hagans to go if there is a first-round opportunity, but would probably rather he stay. One thing for sure, Ashton Hagans is going to have a big decision to make after this season is over.