Ashton Hagans has become one of the best defenders in college basketball, so it’s no surprise he was just named a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.
Hagans was one of 10 players to appear on the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s late-season watch list on Thursday:
- Barry Brown -Kansas State
- Brandon Clarke - Gonzaga
- Ashton Hagans - Kentucky
- De’Andre Hunter - Virginia
- Tre Jones - Duke
- Tariq Owens - Texas Tech
- Zavier Simpson - Michigan
- Matisse Thybulle - Washington
- Grant Williams - Tennessee
- Zion Williamson - Duke
Hagans has emerged as one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders, averaging 2.0 steals per game, which ranks second in the SEC and fifth nationally among all freshmen.
The rise of Hagans began with Kentucky’s win over North Carolina, as he grabbed eight steals and began a seven-game streak of recording at least three steals. He is the only player in school history with such a streak (since steals became an official NCAA statistic in 1985-86).
According to STATS, Hagans was the first major-conference freshman with three or more steals in seven or more straight games since Wake Forest’s Chris Paul did it 10 straight games in the 2003-04 season.
As you can imagine, Hagans is now in the running for the school’s single-season steals record. Rondo owns the record with 87 steals in 2004-05. Through 26 games that season, Rondo had 68 steals. Hagans has 53 to this point, but Rondo only played in 34 games that season.
But more importantly, Hagans’ defense has been a driving force behind Kentucky’s defensive resurgence. Over the last 13 games, Kentucky has gone 12-1 and limited opponents to 60.7 points per game, 38.5 percent from the floor and 31.6 from behind the arc.
If Hagans and Kentucky can keep this up, I’d expect him to be among the four finalists for the award, which will be announced on March 14. The Naismith Award Defensive Player of the Year will be announced on April 7.