Everything had to work out perfectly for Ashton Hagans to end up at Kentucky.
Hagans was once a Georgia commit for a few months. He also was a class of 2019 recruiting target, meaning he should still be in high school. Luckily for UK, both those things changed.
Once former Georgia head coach Mark Fox was fired Hagans started looking at other schools. It was a slow process but eventually the Cats locked in on the 6-foot-3, 192-pound point guard. Hagans had to put in a great deal of work to even be in a position to play at any college for the 2018-2019 season
“(UK’s staff) were on me but they weren’t really talking to me like that,” Hagans said. “… I was getting all my schoolwork done, trying to get there, get there. I was working hard, still had to workout early in the morning. Everything that was going on I still had my classwork when I was still in the 11th grade. I had all that on top. My dad was telling me ‘Keep fighting son. You’ve been working hard, don’t give up now. Keep it going.’ That’s all it was. He was on me, my mom was on me. It was like just let me get this done so everything can get off my shoulders. Now that I’m here it’s like, dang, I really did it. Working hard.”
It’s almost impossible to imagine.
While Hagans was going through his junior year of high school he was having to continue to workout and practice basketball, while trying to do enough coursework to reclassify and still having his normal schoolwork from his junior year teachers at Newton High School in Covington, Ga.
Oh, and he was having to deal with his recruitment, a stressful and important process. Hagans committed to Georgia in December and he said that’s when he started getting serious about reclassifying.
But things would become even more complicated for Hagans. Thinking he could just focus on reclassifying the Bulldogs fired Fox. This added more to his plate because it meant Hagans was going to have to through another recruitment.
“Me and Fox had the relationship because I was always up there with my cousin (Trey Thompkins) cuz he played there,” Hagans said. “I was always up there. The bond we had got, when all that happened, I was like loyalty over anything. Cal wasn’t gonna talk to me because him and Fox were like best friends. He wasn’t gonna have no conversations with me but he was conversing with my dad. When that had happened I was like ‘Dang, I might as well go to a bigger step, next level.’ I just decided to make the decision to come here and see how everything happened from here.”
Kentucky was the bigger step but Hagans still had plenty to do to get the next level. One of John Calipari’s most frequently used recruiting pitches is UK isn’t for everyone. He tells recruits how much work it will be and how nothing is promised or guaranteed.
Hagans previous experience shows he’s not scared to put in the work.
“I did what I had to do to get back here,” Hagans said. “I’m just focusing on right now and what I have going on right now.”
Hagans looked at a few schools after backing off his Georgia pledge and said Tom Crean was frequently at his school but the Cats were the clear favorites once they offered in late March. Two weeks later he committed and two months later he officially reclassified and was on Kentucky’s campus.
Hagans has always been solid at balancing his time and making sure he gets things done, but he laughed when talking about how challenging the college workload was once he arrived to campus.
One big difference is he has managers to help him keep his life together in college.
“Crazy,” Hagans said. “We gotta wakeup early, go to class, when you come back you have like a three-hour practice. That’s when we start practicing for real. We practice, we lift. You gotta time management. Get everything right, do everything what they’re telling you to do. We have (student manager) that comes gets us in the morning and make sure we’re on time for everything. Just make sure you’re doing what you gotta do to get out of here.
“… It’s real crazy. I ain’t never did nothing like this in my life. I’m getting used to it. We are getting used to it. Sometimes I oversleep, my boys… if I’m late to something or about to be late they’ll come in there and wake me up. The managers are like coaches, really. If we’re about to be late they’ll be beating on our door all day until we get up. Really, you have no chance to mess up here. I really like it.”
Hagans says now is the busiest he’s ever been but admitted he still sleeps more than anyone on the team. While Doron Lamb wouldn’t be pleased, given how much work he’s done over in 2018 it’s clear he’s earned some rest.
Check out the rest of KSR’s 2018-19 Basketball Preview Series: