This morning, Ashton Hagans won his second SEC Freshman of the Week award, and while most coaches would focus on the freshman guard’s high number of steals or ever-increasing point totals, John Calipari brought up a less flattering stat on the SEC Teleconference: his turnovers. Cal said that the fact that Hagans won the award for games in which he also turned the ball over a lot is a good lesson to the rest of the team about what really matters.
“It’s a great thing for my team to understand. In the two weeks [Hagans] was SEC Freshman of the Week, he had five turnovers in both games. Anthony Davis was the MVP of the national championship game and was 1-10. All the players, or whoever is around these kids says, ‘Let them be the center of attention, let them shoot all the balls, let them be –‘ You are wrong. You are absolutely wrong. That’s not how they’re being evaluated. It’s a big deal for me when this kind of stuff happens. Again, trying to get these guys as a group to play winning basketball, I’m talking a lot about it now. How do you play winning basketball? The plays you make in the last five minutes that win you ball games.”
Similarly, Calipari said Ashton’s success is proof that if you play to your strengths (steals, defense) and don’t worry about your weaknesses (turnovers), you’ll improve.
“Happy for him. I’m happy that our players can see what he’s doing and that everybody’s talking about he’s this, he’s that, it’s because of his strengths. Forget your weaknesses. Play to your strengths. Don’t let somebody tell you, you’ve got to do this, this, and this — things that you don’t do well – to really be that guy. Stop. Play to your strengths. We’ll work on the weaknesses. Game time, winning time, we’re not going to that. We’re playing everything to people’s strengths, or at least trying to.”
Hagans’ play over the past month is proof that when freshmen block out the clutter and buy in to what Calipari and his staff say, they’ll turn the corner.
“It’s funny how this stuff goes. Early in the season, he was struggling to find his way, struggling to be consistent, struggling to play winning basketball and there’s a panic and all of a sudden, over the month, he starts to get it. He starts to realize we have a better feel for what he is as a player and now, he just plays to his strengths. Like I said, he’s playing as well as anybody we have on our team.”