No rest for the weary.
The Kentucky basketball team will be back in action very soon – they’ll take on Georgia this Tuesday in Athens. And while most of the team just needs to focus on securing an SEC road win, one player has a little more to consider.
Ashton Hagans, a native of Covington, Georgia, grew up under an hour away from the home of the Bulldogs. On December 21, 2017, Hagans verbally committed to the University of Georgia, who was, at the time, still under the leadership of head coach Mark Fox. After his initial announcement, Hagans told reporters his cousin, Trey Thompkins, played at Georgia, so he was comfortable with the staff and the school.
But the joy in Athens didn’t last. Amid uncertainties regarding Coach Fox’s future with the program, Hagans de-committed in late February, 2018. He committed to Kentucky that April.
Now, Georgia is led by our old friend Tom Crean, and Kentucky’s matchup with the Bulldogs will be a homecoming game for Ashton Hagans. Is he looking forward to it?
“I’m very excited,” Hagans said while previewing the matchup. “I’m just ready to go back home and play with my guys.”
However, Hagans can probably expect a lukewarm (at best) welcome from his home state, especially since he was once a “future bulldog” himself. Thankfully, he’ll also have plenty of fans in the crowd.
“I’m at home, so I have a lot of family members that already bought tickets,” Hagans said. “There’s going to be a lot of them, so I just have to step up my game and show them.”
For someone who’s already serving his team as their recent MVP, it’s going to be hard to top his latest performances. He has at least three steals in five straight games, making him the first player to do that in UK history. Across the nation, he’s the first major-conference freshman to do it since Marcus Smart did so at Oklahoma State in 2013. In addition to his 4.4 steals per game, he’s also averaging 12.6 points per game, a 54.8 shooting percentage and 4.2 assists per game over his last five outings.
But how will he react to a game inside the Georgia arena? Let’s rewind.
During the Vanderbilt game, Hagans was involved in a momentarily-scary situation. He was helped off the court after falling, and his condition wasn’t clear. But within minutes, he was back in the game.
“He’s a tough kid,” John Calipari said after the game. “I gave him a minute. I said, ‘You’ve got one minute and you’re going back.’ He said, ‘All right.'”
He’s a competitor, and if his reaction to his “butt bone” injury in the Vandy matchup is any indiciation of his strong-willed mentality, he should be just fine at handling a few booing Georgia fans.