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Ashton Hagans thinks Kentucky’s backcourt in 2019-20 could be “one of the best” we’ll ever see

From the time he first announced his return to Kentucky this offseason, the Big Blue Nation has been downright giddy about what we might see out of Wildcat point guard Ashton Hagans in his second year.

And this afternoon, the 6-foot-3 sophomore didn’t do much to temper those expectations.

In our first media opportunity with Kentucky’s four key returning players today, Hagans was asked about his early thoughts on his new partner in the backcourt, Tyrese Maxey, and just how good they can be together this season.

Not only does Hagans believe they can be good together, he actually believes that the Kentucky backcourt this year just might be the best of the John Calipari era in Lexington.

“[Tyrese Maxey] is a really good guard,” he said. “He’s going to be a nice guard to play with. We’re going to have some great memories on the court. Might be one of the best backcourts you all ever see, but we’re going to have to see.”

Maxey, a consensus five-star, top-15 prospect out of high school, certainly comes to Lexington with high expectations, as well. The 6-foot-4 freshman is considered one of the best shooters in the class of 2020, scores the ball with ease, and takes pride in being an elite defender.

While there is a ton to look forward to when it comes to Maxey, that last aspect of his game is what excites Hagans the most. If his new teammate loves playing defense just as much as he does, Hagans believes it’s going to be a “scary sight” for the opposition this season.

“Tyrese does a lot with his game and I feel like I can do the same,” he said. “He plays defense so that’s something that’s going to be a scary sight for other teams. We’re just ready to go out there and play with each other.”

But does Hagans really believe they’ll be one of the best backcourt pairings not only in the nation, but the most impressive we’ve seen in the 11 years John Calipari has been in Lexington? One potentially better than John Wall and Eric Bledsoe in 2009-10, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray in 2015-16, and De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk in 2016-17?

Absolutely.

But it won’t be just because of him and Maxey. With Immanuel Quickley back for a sophomore season and Johnny Juzang making his way from California in the coming weeks, Hagans is extremely confident that the Wildcats have four elite pieces making up the backcourt.

“We’re going to see,” Hagans said with a laugh. “We’re just going to have to see. Tyrese, he’s a really nice guard. We’ve got Immanuel back. We’ve got some other guards. Johnny, hopefully, we’ll get him in a couple of weeks.”

Outside of the backcourt, the Kentucky sophomore says that with Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery both withdrawing from the NBA Draft, along with all of the other strong pieces they have lining the roster, this team has the opportunity to be “special.”

“Nick’s a lot better. Same thing with EJ,” he said. “I think talent wise, I think we’ve just got pieces so I think we’re going to do something real special.”

With all of the talent coming back and just how deep they are across the board, Hagans wants fans to prepare themselves for the 2019-20 season.

“We’re back here for year two and I just want y’all to see what’s coming up in year two,” he said.

And what might that be?

“You’re just going to have to wait and see…”


Kentucky will play Georgetown College, Kentucky State in exhibitions

Get out your calendars because Kentucky just released the exhibition schedule for the 2019-20 season.

The Cats will host Georgetown College on Sunday, October 27 at 5 p.m. and Kentucky State on Friday, November 1 at 7 p.m. Both games will take place at Rupp Arena and be televised on the SEC Network. Additionally, UK announced that Big Blue Madness will take place Friday, October 11 at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network and the Blue-White Game will be Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Here’s the schedule as we know it:

Friday, October 11 Big Blue Madness Rupp Arena Lexington, KY SEC Network
Friday, October 18 Blue-White Game Rupp Arena Lexington, KY SEC Network
Sunday, October 27 Georgetown College Rupp Arena Lexington, KY SEC Network
Friday, November 1 Kentucky State Rupp Arena Lexington, KY SEC Network
Tuesday, November 5 Michigan State (Champions Classic) Madison Square Garden New York, NY ESPN
Friday, November 8 Eastern Kentucky Rupp Arena Lexington, KY TBD
Tuesday, November 12 Evansville Rupp Arena Lexington, KY TBD
Wednesday, December 18 Utah T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas, NV TBD
Saturday, December 21 Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic) T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas, NV CBS

Kentucky has played both Georgetown College and Kentucky State before. The Cats are 2-0 in exhibition games vs. Georgetown College with the most recent meeting taking place Nov. 9, 2014. Kentucky beat Kentucky State in their lone exhibition meeting on Nov. 6, 2015 and played them once in the regular season back in Dec. 15, 2001, winning 118-63.

Of course, Georgetown College is coming off its third NAIA Division I national championship last season. The Tigers have appeared in three NAIA national championship games under current head coach and two-time NAIA Coach of the Year Chris Briggs, who is a former student manager of the Wildcat program from 2001-04 and a graduate assistant from 2004-06.

Go Cats. Go in-state exhibitions.


College basketball going international with 3-point line

College basketball going international with 3-point line

College basketball will scoot its shooters back almost a foot and a half for that extra point. Beginning this upcoming season, the college 3-point line will match that of international basketball, moving from 20 feet, nine inches, to 22 feet, 1¾ inches.

Yesterday, Coach Cal had this to say about the potential change: “The 3-point line going back, well, it’ll open up the lane maybe. I mean, I don’t know. The idea may be that they want everybody on the same plane from FIBA to whatever. That may be the reason. Either way it doesn’t matter to me, but there are other things that I think would be important.”

The NCAA also approved a change to the shot clock on Wednesday. It will now reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound, in hopes of speeding up pace of play.

Coaches will be excited to know they can call live-ball timeouts in the final two minutes of games too.

For more on the changes, check out the NCAA’s release here.


How can Immanuel Quickey take a step forward as a sophomore?

How can Immanuel Quickey take a step forward as a sophomore?

When Kentucky signee Tyrese Maxey committed to the school back in May of 2020, many penciled the 6-foot-3 dynamic scorer in as a guaranteed starter for the 2019-20 roster. And then when starting point guard Ashton Hagans made the surprisingly-quick decision to return for his sophomore season in April, he locked himself in as a starter, as well.

With most of the (admittedly-deserved) attention on Maxey and Hagans for the backcourt next season, where does former five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley fit into the equation?

Averaging 5.2 points on 37.2% shooting and 34.5% from three to go with 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest last season, the 6-foot-3 guard’s numbers certainly don’t jump off the page on first glance. In fact, in 15 of his 37 total games the Havre De Grace, MD native finished with three points or less for the Wildcats.

On the flip side, Quickley also managed scoring totals of 15, 12 (four times), 10, 9, and 8 (three times) throughout his freshman season, along with several clutch moments at the end of games at the free throw line and from beyond the arc. Some would even argue that between Hagans and Quickley, the latter was the better all-around player toward the end of the season.

Unless you’re one of the few elite prospects we see year after year (and even sometimes if you are), there are growing pains and inconsistencies for true freshmen at the college level. Quickley fell right in line with that common theme.

Now that we’re on to year two for the former five-star prospect, how can he find his groove consistently this season and shine as the consensus top-25 recruit he came to Lexington as last season?

Keep developing confidence as a shooter

While he certainly hit some big shots from three on occasion last season, Quickley has the potential and ability to be a consistent knockdown shooter in the Kentucky backcourt moving forward.

Next to Tyrese Maxey, who is also expected to be an elite shooter next season, the Wildcats can put out lineups that absolutely torch opposing teams from deep in 2019-20. Quickley would certainly be included in that.

In fact, Calipari can roll out a pure-shooting group of Maxey, Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina, and EJ Montgomery at times, where each participant has the ability to knock down open jumpers at a consistent rate from three. In fact, one could argue every one those individuals has the potential to shoot at least 30% from three next year, with Maxey, Quickley, and Juzang all capable of shooting 38% or higher.

Quickley has already had eight games with two or more 3-pointers on 50% shooting (or higher), but his per-game ceiling is far greater than that. 34.5% certainly keeps defenders honest, but he has the ability to push upwards of 40% at a consistent clip. Confidence is the only thing limiting him from reaching that point.

When he finds his shot, he’s money on open opportunities both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. When that confidence slips, we see poor shooting displays such as Auburn (1-6), Abilene Christian (0-3), LSU (1-4), and at Florida (1-5).

The potential is there, he just needs to keep building his confidence to get to that point.

Look to be a facilitator

Back at the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, SC in 2017, Quickley was easily one of the most impressive prospects in attendance. In fact, his head-to-head matchup with Zion Williamson at the time was one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire weekend, where Quickley’s Team BBC squad defeated Williamson’s SC Supreme 68-64. The Wildcat guard posted 20 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, while Williamson finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.

While Quickley stuffed the stat sheet in that event and throughout his entire AAU career, the most impressive aspect of his game had nothing to do with his impressive shooting stroke or his ability to finish in the lane. It was the ridiculous court vision and passing ability he possessed that really turned heads. In fact, I would contend that if he had more talent around him on Team BBC, he could have averaged upwards of 12 or 13 assists per contest on the AAU circuit. One of the most frustrating parts of watching the Wildcat guard play was that he would pull off tremendous passes and find his teammates open time and time again, they would just miss the shots.

At Kentucky, Quickley mostly relied on catch-and-shoot opportunities to assert himself in the offense, completely ignoring one of his most impressive attributes. In year two, the UK point guard needs to continue to find his shot, but he can truly be a difference-maker from game one as a facilitator.

With ridiculous depth from top to bottom of the roster, opportunities for assists are there this season. He never finished with more than four assists in a single game last year, but I expect that to change this season.

Continue to get to the line

Quickley was inconsistent at times from a shooting perspective last year, but one thing that never changed was his ridiculous ability to knock down shots at the free throw line at an elite rate.

Shooting 83% from the line last year, Quickley was easily one of the most reliable players on the team, specifically when games went down to the wire. With the 6-foot-3 point guard in the lineup in the closing seconds, you could always rely on him to come through in the clutch in high-pressure moments. In fact, the only reason why his elite ability at the line wasn’t more publicized was because Kentucky just-so-happened to have the greatest free throw shooter in Kentucky history, Tyler Herro, on the roster and in the game down the stretch last year.

In 37 games last year, Quickley only missed 11 total free throws. In his sophomore season, he needs to continue to force the situation and get to the line more often. With Herro off to the NBA, they’ll likely need him on multiple occasions in 2019-20.