Ashton Hagans is clearly one of the leaders on this year’s basketball team, and it’s hard to imagine this group without the guidance and consistency of the sophomore point guard. That made his injury Saturday afternoon all the more scary for Kentucky.
Since Hagans exited the Wildcats’ game against Missouri with 1:48 remaining in the second half, we’ve now learned it’s a low-ankle sprain, not an achilles tear. John Calipari told us that much following the game.
Calipari’s comments on Ashton Hagans:
“It’s not his Achilles… Low ankle sprain takes 18 hours, so he’ll be fine” pic.twitter.com/lLXsFg3ixs
— Maggie Davis (@MaggieDavisKSR) January 4, 2020
Still, that update came over an hour after Hagans was helped off the bench and taken back into the training room. That gave Kentucky fans – and players – plenty of time to worry.
“I saw him grabbing the back of his foot. I was just hoping it wasn’t achilles,” Nick Richards told reporters after the game. “Not even for us, but just for him as a player. He’s having a really good season. That could be like a career-ending injury, and I hoped that hadn’t happened to him.”
“When he was limping, it definitely dropped my heart. I’m sure everybody was holding their breath a little bit,” Immanuel Quickley added. “He’s basically the heart and soul of our team. Offensively and defensively he’s a leader. Everything he does is everything we’re about. We hope he can get better really fast.”
Calipari initially joked Hagans could return “18 hours” after the injury. But by the end of the press conference, he was back-peddling, saying “we’ve got a two-day flip. We don’t know if Ashton plays” this Tuesday against the Georgia Bulldogs.
“Maybe he doesn’t play against Georgia,” Calipari added. “Then you’re all going to see the impact and the importance he has on this team. His will drags these guys.”
Ashton Hagans injury to the back of his lower leg. pic.twitter.com/j0FenMoyCR
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 4, 2020
Nate Sestina agrees with his head coach regarding Hagans’ importance.
“He’s our guy. He’s our go-to guy on offense and on defense,” Sestina said. “He gets stuff moving. He gets us the ball on defense, and I’m hoping everything is alright with him for sure.”
If Hagans doesn’t play in Athens on Tuesday, Quickley says the team will have to pick up the “little stuff” Hagans takes care of each and every game.
“He’s active on defense trying to get steals and stuff… He gets everybody else involved, so we’re going to have to be a better passing team than we already are. And he’s a leader, so I think we’re going to have to talk and pick up little stuff like that he does. Hopefully everybody together will make up for that.”
Hagans absence against the Bulldogs would also complicate Kentucky’s defensive plan for Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. The freshman guard is averaging just over 18 points per game while shooting approximately 41 percent from the floor and 32 percent from behind the three-point line. Both Quickley and Keion Brooks effectively shut down Louisville’s Jordan Nwora, so the Cats wouldn’t become totally helpless in that department.
Still, it’s hard to imagine a game in Ashton Hagans’ home state without his contributions. Last year against the Bulldogs, Hagans shot 50 percent from the field for 23 points, while adding five rebounds, four assists and four steals. This year, Georgia is 10-3, and they’re coming off a big win over No. 9 Memphis.
“Going to Georgia, our hands are full. I haven’t seen much, but I know their coach, [Tom Crean]. I know how good he is. I know how hard their team will play,” Calipari said. “They’ll be prepared. The good news is they only have a day and a half too, like us.”
Time to get to work.