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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Ashton Hagans Edition

Ashton Hagans is considered by ESPN’s Andy Katz as the most important returning player in the SEC. Can he follow PJ Washington and Terrence Jones as second-year returning starter success stories?

Auburn v Kentucky Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Ashton Hagans has been receiving a lot of buzz lately about the effect he is projected to have on Kentucky next season. Recently, Andy Katz placed him at the top of the list of players in the SEC who will have the biggest impact next season.

Picking up on that theme, Jerry Tipton (pipe down, boo birds) of the Lexington Herald-Leader has a recent article with further exposition of Hagans’ importance. Quoted in the article, ESPN’s Jay Bilas called Hagans “among the two or three best on-ball defenders in the country” and “relentless.”

My recollection of Hagans performance is more of an arc than a plateau. He began rather slowly, splitting time at the point with Immanuel Quickley and, while a good defender, could hardly be characterized as “relentless.” But an eight-steal game against North Carolina followed by an amazing run of 11 games where he averaged close to three steals per game established him as one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation. That production on the defensive (and offensive) side dropped off dramatically in the second half of the SEC season as he hit the “freshman wall.”

Now we see frequent comparisons to the vast improvement of PJ Washington, and I think these are pretty apt. Hagans has showed similar flashes of ability, and like PJ last season, has a few glaring holes in his game to shore up, like perimeter shooting and the consistency that comes with confidence. I wouldn’t expect the fall-off in production in the later season next year, for example, like we saw in the just-completed season.

Hagans has shown flashes of extraordinary ability. Maturity often brings the confidence to consistently perform at a higher level, and it’s likely that Hagans will improve dramatically next season. He’ll have plenty of help in case of a stumble, though, which is a nice bonus.

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