The Kentucky Wildcats’ rise back into the top 10 of every major poll has come in large part due to the emergence of Ashton Hagans.
Kentucky got off to a sluggish start this season, going 7-2 and nearly falling out of the top 25 polls. However, Hagans slowly but surely began taking his game to another level, and it’s made a dramatic impact on the 2018-19 Wildcats, who have won seven of their last eight games, including three wins over teams currently in the top 25 polls.
Now, Hagans has been nominated for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. He was one of 15 players to appear on the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s midseason watch list on Tuesday. The list includes players whose defensive efforts on the court have set them apart from the pack.
Hagans is averaging 2.3 steals per game, which ranks second in the SEC and third nationally among all freshmen. He’s first in the country in steals per game among freshmen who are averaging 25.0 minutes or less per game.
Hagans’ steal rate per 40 minutes is 3.7 for the season, and over his last seven games, that number has risen to 5.3 steals per outing. That includes a school record-tying eight steals vs. North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic. He has at least three steals over the last seven games.
According to STATS, the freshman from Georgia is the first major-conference freshman with three or more steals in seven or more straight games since Wake Forest guard and NBA All-Star Chris Paul did it 10-straight games in the 2003-04 season.
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