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3 Wildcats make SI’s top 50 college players

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More postseason honors for the Wildcats.

Hagans, Quickley Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

College basketball fans are still left empty handed instead of watching the start of the NCAA Tournament today. Awards and lists are still being handed out without the postseason taking place, though, and Kentucky is still well represented.

Jeremy Woo at Sports Illustrated released his Top-50 College Basketball Players in 2019-2020 and three Wildcats made the cut.

Although his season ended even rockier than the rest because of his play and things surrounding him off the floor, Ashton Hagans was still one of the best point guards in the country this year and landed at #49.

“Hagans remained one of the top perimeter defenders in college hoops and also upped his contributions as a playmaker, leading the SEC in assists and admirably shouldering a key role on a team otherwise devoid of a real point guard. Though not the most efficient scorer, his intangibles and contributions to winning are worthy of mention. Few players can make opponents quite as uncomfortable,” said Woo.

The next Wildcat to make the list was Nick Richards at #41. Richards still showed signs of inconsistency, but he was still so much better than he had ever been and he was one of the best big men in the country this season because of it. The improvement in Nick’s game alone qualified him for this list, but his role as crucial centerpiece for Kentucky at times on both ends of the floor surely sealed the deal.

“It all finally clicked for Richards in his junior season in Lexington. Kentucky desperately needed a big man to step up and Richards answered the bell, slowly building consistency until becoming a Player of the Year candidate in SEC play. With an improved touch around the basket and reliable free throw shooting, he became a critical part of the Wildcats’ offense,” said Woo.

Finally, Immanuel Quickley made it all the way up to #17. Quickley became Kentucky’s go-to scorer down the stretch of conference play and was nearly automatic at times from all over the floor. He improved and was an asset on the defensive end as well. Quickley was more than deserving of SEC Player of the Year and would’ve been a major factor had there been a tournament for anyone to play in.

“Quickley bounced back from an underwhelming freshman year to become the most consistent contributor on another good Kentucky team, leading the Wildcats in scoring and become their only major threat shooting from the perimeter. He found a way to star within his role, as part of a group that sorely needed him to step up, and emerged as one of the SEC’s best players in the process,” said Woo.

Kentucky faced multiple other players that made the list including Cassius Winston, Jordan Nwora, Xavier Tillman, Kaleb Wesson, Skylar Mays, Mason Jones, Isaac Okoro, Reggie Perry, Kira Lewis Jr. and Anthony Edwards. Dayton’s Obi Toppin was #1 on the list.

This was a special group for Kentucky because of where they were when they started playing. They were obviously all talented when they got to Lexington, but they all really broke out on the college level this year and will all be able to test the waters at the pro level because of it. What will be interesting to see is who thinks it’s their time to take it to the next level and who decides they have more to accomplish at Kentucky.