On Tuesday evening, the Kentucky basketball program traveled down to Athens, GA, weathered the storm against the Georgia Bulldogs, and headed back to Lexington with another win under their belt.
A key reason for that victory? Starting point guard Ashton Hagans and his ability to fight through the left ankle injury he suffered against Missouri on Saturday.
Despite the injury – one that looked quite serious to the naked eye – Hagans headed home to play in front of 50 friends and family members, where he finished with 13 points, two rebounds, five assists, four steals, and a block in 36 minutes of play.
He started the day shooting 3-10 overall before settling in and leading the Wildcats to victory, something he has done time and time again during his time in Lexington.
“Ashton came out, went home, got a little excited. Took a few too many jump shots,” Calipari said of his starting point guard.
“You could say that (I was amped up to play),” Hagans admitted. “The coaches were talking to me about it before the game, Just like keeping my cool, don’t try to go out here and do too much, but I couldn’t (help myself). They said I had put up at least 10 shots when we went into halftime. I’m like, ‘Dang, I don’t normally do this. Let me go out here and try to chill this second half. ‘I had the family in. I had over 50 people at the game so I was just trying to put on a show for them. At least we came out with a dub.”
Calipari compared Hagans’ fight to that of Kentucky football star Lynn Bowden, who transitioned from wide receiver to quarterback mid-season and led the Wildcats to a 37-30 victory in the Belk Bowl.
“At the end of the day, that kid has a will to win that drags the rest of us,” Calipari said. “Kind of like [Lynn] Bowden did [for the football team]. He is that. He is Lynn Bowden for us.”
“I feel like he’s just been watching me and watching me grow,” Hagans said of his coach. “I feel like I’m a better leader but not fully all the way there yet. I’m working on it.”
Calipari joked that given how valuable Hagans is to this team, he may even be able to throw the ball a bit better than Bowden, too.
“May be able to throw the ball better, I don’t know that,” Calipari said with a laugh.