Kentucky freshman guard Ashton Hagans has yet to really put his total game together for coach John Calipari but with his athletic bloodline, you have to think it’s going to come.
Two of his cousins are former NFL and Auburn running back Ronnie Brown and former NBA player Trey Thompkins, a first-team all-SEC pick at Georgia.
“I know both of them very well. Trey played for the Clippers and then went overseas and Ronnie played for the Dolphins,” Hagans said. “They are like mentors to me telling me to keep my head on, play my game and just do what I have to do to get to the next level.”
Hagans obviously appreciates their words of wisdom.
“It is a blessing to have them in my life because they have been through it all,” Hagans said. “Just them letting me know what is going to come is a huge help. They tell me what to expect and the hard work you have to put in not just at practice but in the mornings and the afternoons. That extra work it takes to make me a better player.”
Growing up in Georgia with a cousin who was a football star at Auburn, it would not have been surprising to see a player with the athletic abilities of Hagans become a football star.
“I was real good at football. I wanted to play football but I really didn’t like the contact, so I couldn’t do it. I had to go with basketball,” Hagans laughed and said.
His Little League football team won a state championship, not an easy task in Georgia. He played quarterback, running back and cornerback as one might expect for a player with his speed and agility.
“I wasn’t the best player on the team. There was a lot of talent on there. It was like an all-star team,” Hagans said.
Hagans bailed on football as a high school freshman despite the peer pressure in Georgia to stay with football.
“I went out there and played but they had someone in front of me that I felt like I was better than. I just decided my freshman year to stick with basketball,” Hagans said. “I wouldn’t say I was soft. I could take the hits but I really didn’t like getting hit, especially when it was cold outside. I would just ball up (in the cold). I had to go to the indoor sport that was warmer.
Hagans was a late addition to the Kentucky roster this year. He was a one-time Georgia commit but changed his mind after coach Mark Fox was fired. He decided to reclassify to the 2018 recruiting class and joined Kentucky’s class even though UK already had signed point guard Immanuel Quickley.
Hagans is regarded as a defensive stopper with the ability to get into the lane to score or create for others. However, in six games he’s averaging 2.3 assists, 2.2 points and 1.0 rebounds per game. He’s taken just 14 shots overall, and is 0-for-3 from 3-point range. He has four steals in 98 minutes but he also has turned the ball over 11 times.
“He’s a guy that’s still learning. He’s thinking about what’s next instead of just reacting to what’s next, and that’s just a natural progression of any young player,” Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said. “Sometimes it comes quicker than others.
“Right now, Ashton’s picked things up (but) not quite at the pace as some other guys. We don’t want him out thinking defensively because he’s so disruptive. He put pressure on the ball, and if you can disrupt the timing of any offense starting at the point then your defense can be really good, and that’s what Ashton brings to the floor. Now we just need him to pick some of the other things up.”
Hagans likes to guard full court. He knows how to play angles to disrupt offensive players.
“That is something I have enjoyed doing since I started playing the game,” Hagans said. “I think it brings the intensity level up for whole team. That is what I am here to do.”
Calipari continues to say he’s trying to figure out his guard play and how to use Quickley, Quade Green, Tyler Herro and Hagans the most effectively.
“I’m trying to define how guys should play, but it’s hard because they got a lot of clutter coming at them of how they should be playing,” Calipari said. “I’m trying to define a way that they can really look like a very good basketball player, as a matter of fact outstanding, and you don’t see any of this other stuff. But that’s going to take time.”