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Ashton Hagans may have taken over Kentucky’s top point guard spot

Five points (1-3 shooting), two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block. Solid numbers, but certainly nothing that blows you away on first glance.

Watching Kentucky’s 78-61 victory over UNC-Greensboro, however, it became obvious freshman point guard Ashton Hagans took a major step forward. In fact, it might have been a performance that solidified his spot as the team’s lead point guard.

Whether it be poking balls loose, diving on the floor, jumping the passing lanes, or being a pest on the ball, Hagans dominated on the defensive end of the floor. It was the exact kind of performance we were told we might see before he even arrived in Lexington.

Back in April before Hagans committed, Kentucky guard Tyler Herro told KSR the Covington, GA native was a defensive superstar and whoever signed him would be “lucky.”

“The way he picks up 94 feet, full-court defense. He gets downhill a lot, as a point guard, he gets downhill. Comes off in transition, makes the right play. To have him as a point guard, whoever gets him, they’re lucky,” said Herro.

Keldon Johnson agreed.

“I’d say he’s definitely a dog, picks up 94 feet, steps up on defense,” he said.

We’ve seen spurts of elite play out of Hagans on the defensive end of the floor, but it’s been inconsistent at best. To make matters worse, the Kentucky freshman has struggled immensely on offense, making it hard to keep him on the floor for long stretches of time.

Over the last two games, however, we’ve seen an uptick in production on both ends of the floor. He finished with a career-high seven points on Wednesday against Monmouth, and then followed it up with an absolutely phenomenal defensive performance against UNC-Greensboro star guard Francis Alonso.

Guarded by a combination of Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, Alonso finished the first half shooting 5-6 from the field for 19 points. From there, Hagans allowed Alonso to shoot just 1-6 for three points the rest of the way. In fact, the star Spartan guard finished with more turnovers in the second half (two) than total baskets.

“It’s not even what he did offensively,” head coach John Calipari said after the game. “We put him on No. 10. We said we can let the kid get 60, or we can put Ashton on him.”

Kentucky forward Reid Travis said the Wildcats knew Francis Alonso was a talented scorer going into the game, and it’s a relief to have a player on his team that can slow down a hot hand.

“(Alonso) is a talented scorer, he’s a good player, and we knew that going into the game,” he said. “He can score in a lot of different ways, but it’s nice to have a guy like Ashton that can take it on himself. We knew that when (Alonso) got going, we could put Ashton on him and have success. He really took a lot of pride in stopping him and shutting him down. He knew that was going to help us win the game.”

And that’s not even to discredit the progression the Wildcat freshman has made offensively as of late, either.

Last game, Hagans drilled an open three-pointer in the corner, his first make from deep of the season. There was zero hesitation, the form was smooth, and he looked comfortable taking it. For a player with shooting concerns coming in, it was absolutely a step in the right direction.

Today, however, the newest Wildcat guard pulled out a trick we saw quite often as a high schooler in Georgia. It was one that forced recruiting analysts to compare his speedy style of play to former Kentucky stars John Wall and De’Aaron Fox.

On one instance, Hagans got the ball in transition and took it coast-to-coast going three-on-two. The defenders sagged off onto the other Wildcats, leaving an open lane for Hagans to make a play. Instead of hesitating like we’ve seen throughout the season, the Kentucky point guard shifted gears, cutting through the lane and going up for a reverse and-one layup. The Rupp Arena crowd erupted for easily the loudest moment of the afternoon.

Calipari says Hagans played the situation perfectly and was proud of the progression out of his bright-eyed newcomer.

“Here’s his job: Catch that ball and look ahead. If somebody is ahead, throw it. If they’re not ahead or they’re guarded, that means the court is spaced. So I look (left), he’s guarded; I go the other way, he’s guarded, I’m shooting a lay-up. So you’re doing this on the run,” he said.

Travis said the defensive talent is obvious, but when he’s aggressive on offense, Hagans can be a truly special basketball player.

“He’s obviously disruptive on defense, and he can facilitate on offense,” he said. “But when he picks his spots and he gets in there, I mean, that finish was something you could see all the time. Really, if he has an aggressive mindset, he can get in there and make free throws and get and-ones. We’re all happy for him.”

The offense is coming along, but there’s no question Hagans’ defense is what’s quickly separating him as the most impactful point guard on the Kentucky roster. Quade Green has been solid shooting the ball, and Immanuel Quickley has been a solid facilitator, but they’re not forcing opponents to gameplan against them when they enter the game the way they have to with Hagans. He’s a much-needed energy boost when the team just needs a spark on both ends of the floor.

UNC-Greensboro head coach Wes Miller said Hagans will be able to put on a show defensively against “just about anybody.”

“His on-ball pressure in the backcourt is where it starts,” he said. “He makes it difficult to bring the ball up the court. … That was the main thing we talked about in scouting, the impact he has on the game defensively. I think he’ll be able to do that to just about anybody in the country this year.”

With defensive struggles elsewhere on the roster, it’s a breath of fresh air when Hagans steps on the floor. It’s so much of a breath of fresh air that John Calipari has officially decided the Kentucky guard will be in charge of guarding the opposing team’s best player going forward.

“He’s physical,” Calipari said. “He’s more athletic. He can stay in front of people. He gave (Alonso) one shot, if you remember, in front of their bench where he guarded him with his hands down and the kid made a three. Short of that, he guarded him, and I told the team after the game, so what’s just been proven is if another team gets going with an individual player, what are we going to do as a team? We’re putting Ashton on him.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

35 responses to “Ashton Hagans may have taken over Kentucky’s top point guard spot”

  1. bigblue2284

    Just stop this is getting embarrassing lol. Fans pumping up a win at home against UNC Greensboro should open some eyes to how bad this team is. Don’t even get me started on claiming Hagans as the missing piece with that stat line.

    1. Blue Bill

      Go back to complaining about our football 9-3 record. Lord.

    2. mashburnfan1

      Agree 2284, KSR and Cal as always trying to make them sound like a F4 team we just beat. Cal will probably claim we have had the toughest schedule in America and KSR will agree while wiping the brown from their noses. UNCG beat La tech by 7, beat Prarie View A&M by 8 and beat NC A&T by 8. They had good stats because they beat something called Greensboro 111-33, I am guessing some local CC or something. Also beat something called Johnson and Wales, whoever they are, 105-57 and I think I would have a chance vs those 2 guys. Not hard to argue we looked better in the 2nd half but I think mainly because the size just wore down this inferior team. Just remember that because a team is in the tourney it does not mean they are a good team. Lots of teams are in there every year with ZERO shot at winning it all, we are one of them the last 4 years and counting.

    3. mashburnfan1

      Well Pilgrim I guess La Teck, Prarie View A&M and NC A&T are very good teams as well with close losses {two of them at UNCG} to this power. All teams struggle here and there but beating that level of teams by that little of a margin says they are not that good. We have 6 or 7 so called NBA players and struggle with a group that has none, maybe 1, and at home. They got tired as they don’t have the bodies to compete at that level for 40 minutes.

    4. bigblue2284

      Actually bluebill I think UK had a very good football team minus Wilson, the coaches suck and ruined what could have been an even better season.

      I don’t care what metric your trying to use in order to justify UNCG as a “good team” they aren’t. Cal was relying on PJ and Nick coming back as decent players and both are a disaster, the recruiting class was WAY overrated and Cal refuses to adjust.

    5. davis2319

      Bigbluedumbass without Terry Wilson, UK doesn’t make a bowl game. Who would’ve played GuNnaR HoAk?

    6. CombatMedic_98

      He handed off just as well as Terry did so yess he could’ve but, Terry pulled it together after the Tennessee loss…thank goodness!

    7. shelby

      UNCG is a good team; come selection Sunday this will be a win vs a top 50 or top 25 team.

    8. BigolBlue

      Well said blue. Lemme guess everyone thinks your me. Its so sad were getting hyped for this. Duke won by 70

    9. bigbluebanana

      What about your me? Learn grammar you ignoramus. It’s not fun destroying a troll if they don’t even seem partially intelligent.

    10. BigolBlue

      Hey banana we are breaking up. I want a divorce

    11. CombatMedic_98

      Someone named banana destroying…?! Are you kidding…YOU ‘ain’t destroyed noone one but yourself all season long banana Rama…LOL

    12. bigbluebanana

      I’ve owned you and your homie bigolblue, if we took a poll on this site on who owned who, I’d garner 80% minimum vote. All you two do is b!tch about our teams, I hit you with actual facts and you resort to name calling. And banana Rama is the best you can do? Weird flex, but okay.

    13. CombatMedic_98

      Nahhh…totally the opposite. I’ve been carrying you under my armpit the entire season son…you moaned and cried when the FACTS and TRUTH was spoken and your little skirt and panty wearing self couldn’t handle it…get outta here you POSER!!!

    14. CombatMedic_98

      VOTE?! Are u in a popularity contest…get a life MO

    15. davis2319

      CombatMedic_98 you’re an idiot. No one likes you please delete your account, then the app, then sell your phone. You are obvious if you think UK could’ve had en equally successful season with Hoak playing quarterback. But seriously, please delete this app.

    16. CombatMedic_98

      It’s okay I like me…thanks anyways

    17. Booby Petrino

      Dumbest trolls on the planet! Fire Cal! Hire BigolBlue, mashburnfan1, and 2284. They really know what they’re talking about! National championship bound with them in charge!

  2. Truth_Hurts

    Yeah I agree. I think we should wait until we beat a good team to say we’ve turned a corner. This wasn’t a top 25 team and won’t be all year. Kentucky struggled with them for 30 minutes too.

  3. Smyrna_Cat

    Hagens was a 5-star recruit and considered one of the top guards in the country. He needs to play a bit better.

    1. michaelb

      He’s getting there , adjusting to the college game a little at a time . I see the potential

  4. Jazz1124

    Man all y’all must have miserable times watching this team. Why even do it?

  5. michaelb

    This guys numbers don’t jump off the page but he controls the game really well when he’s in now . Has scary potential, can’t wait to see more improvement

  6. mikeintn

    Don’t you guys see that these trolls are just always poking at you to get a response, if no one ever respond to them, they would just fade awaaaaaaay.

  7. willmenser

    Don’t say that to Tom Hart. Literally couldn’t say one nice thing about him all game. Was riding him like the local prostitute

    1. bigbluebanana

      Leave bigolblue‘ wife out of this, we agreed to stop that.

    2. CombatMedic_98

      You and your troll buddies the Comment Control Team at it again…nice

    3. bigbluebanana

      Actually, we go by fans. You and your lil homie blue are the trolls. Something tells me you own the entire series of Duck Dynasty on dvd and you have a framed picture of your uncle brother with a q anon shirt on beside your bed.

    4. CombatMedic_98

      Holy cow how’d you know?! You forgot the MAGA hat too kid…That means you must have a picture of Hillary Clinton by your bedside and a BLUE BANANA to remind you how f how you CONTROL ALL THINGS on KSR…as we LAUGH uncontrollably at your ignorance and stupidity when you TROLL the comments as if you are important or something…

    5. CombatMedic_98

      I got a picture of you too…floating in my toilet…you’re my #1 BANANA TURD

    6. bigbluebanana

      “You’re my # 1 BANANA TURD”. Do you even proofread yourself? That was embarrassing, my 8 year old kid is funnier than that, and far more mature. You’re turning yourself into a literal joke here dude. At this point, most of us just feel sorry for you, and it’s even worse that you don’t see it and you keep trying.

  8. Wade

    It’s about March people.

  9. AllBall

    Scientists now agree, KSR can cause a negative impact on mental health.

    1. jim tom

      Now that’s funny. Facts