Due to a reclassification and a late commitment, Kentucky fans knew less about Ashton Hagans going into the Bahamas than the rest of Kentucky’s freshmen players. Expectations were high, but what exactly he would bring to the team remained to be seen.
After four games in the Bahamas, several things became abundantly clear. Hagans will be one of the best perimeter defenders that John Calipari has had at Kentucky, he will be a terror to opposing back courts, and he is a lot of fun to watch on both ends of the court.
Ashton Hagans: Mr. Steal Your Ball— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 9, 2018
He had three first-half swipes pic.twitter.com/q5bHdoKhoB
Hagans led the Wildcats in steals with 2 per game, shot an efficient 53% from the floor, and was third on the team in offensive rebounds. He was a major contributor in the four victories.
However, his game is not quite complete.
Hagans only attempted 15 shots during the entire trip, which is dead last on the team for players that appeared in every game (sans Brad Calipari). And the majority of those shots came on layups, with several of those coming on transition buckets.
Ashton Hagans picks a pocket and finishes with the left hand. pic.twitter.com/tzf9SXZoy3— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
I am not saying that every player on the team needs to try to get theirs on the stat sheet. Hagans can be a strong contributor on a championship team averaging 6-8 points per game. His defense is just as valuable to this team as points on the other end.
However, for Hagans to be able to stay on the floor as much as the Wildcats need him to for his defense, he has to gain confidence in his shooting ability and be more willing to contribute offensively.
“He’s got to shoot more,” Calipari said of Hagans after the Bahamas finale. “He pulled up and made one. He’s a good shooter, I don’t know why — again, what’s his habit? Head down and drive. That’s his habit. And now we’ve been really working on a consistent follow through which gives you a consistent shot.”
If John Calipari says you are a good shooter, I tend to believe him. With Hagans’ speed and aggressive attitude, I imagine that he got to the cup whenever he wanted to in high school and probably AAU basketball as well.
Ashton Hagans up and under. pic.twitter.com/aM2BBQEorl— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
But playing Division I basketball is a different story. And while the SEC is not known for its basketball programs, the conference is full of top notch athletes. Hagans is not going to be able to blow by them like he did his opponents before this point.
He has to grow. He has to adapt. And if he wants to be an early NBA Draft pick at some point, he has to show that he can consistently knock down shots outside of the paint.
Ashton Hagans pull up midrange jumper. pic.twitter.com/EoeE0ZluxV— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 12, 2018
With Calipari and his staff having a few more months to work with Hagans, and seeing more practice time to learn from his teammates, Hagans will continue to grow and develop offensively as he pushes his teammates to improve on the defensive end.
Hagans will be a monster this season, regardless of what the box scores say. But his progress offensively could take the Wildcats to entirely new level and make their run in March that much easier.