You can now count Ashton Hagans as the next great point guard to leave Kentucky early for the glitz and glamour of the NBA, as he announced his declaration for the NBA Draft on Sunday.
The Georgia native is the first Wildcat to formally announce that he will put his name in the 2020 NBA Draft that will be held on June 25th in New York City, depending on the state of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hagans, projected as a mid-to-late second-round pick, was recently named one of four finalists for the 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award with Marcus Garrett (Kansas), Tre Jones (Duke) and Mark Vital (Baylor). Garrett ultimately won the award.
The sophomore was recently named to the 2020 SEC All-Defensive Team and was the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19, finishing his UK career with 119 steals in 67 games (1.77 per game) which ranks third in school history behind Rajon Rondo and Derek Anderson.
This season, Hagans led the Wildcats to a 25-6 overall record that included the school’s 49th SEC regular-season title and a No. 8-ranking in the final AP Top 25 Poll.
Offensively, Hagans averaged 11.5 points per game, including a career-high 26 point performance against Utah Valley in early November. He also finished his career with 351 assists, 12th in program history, and his 6.4 assists per game led the SEC.
Hagans, once projected as a first-round NBA pick, watched his stock plummet throughout a season filled with injuries and personal issues that resulted in missing the team’s final game of the year - a 71-70 victory at Florida.
The big knock against Hagans has been his perimeter shooting as the 6-foot-3 point guard made just 16-of-62 (25.8%) from behind the three-point arc and struggled to find consistency over the final month of the regular season.
The good news is that Hagans connected on 115-of-142 (81%) from the free throw line and was the heart and soul of a Wildcats defense that held opponents to 66 points per game.
With the NBA season currently suspended due to the coronavirus, several teams are preparing for a draft process that may not include combines, individual workouts or face-to-face interviews. However, teams should have good numbers on Hagans and his teammates who participate annually in UK’s Pro Day and have plenty of film and in-person visits to make solid draft-day decisions.
As an underclassman, Hagans will have until June 15th to withdraw and return to school, but it sounds like he’s gone for good based on the announcement.
In addition to Hagans, most experts look for Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey to declare for the draft with EJ Montgomery also expected to test the waters for the second consecutive year.
At this point, the only real question centers around Immanuel Quickley, who went from backup point guard in 2018-19 to SEC Player of the Year in 2019-20. Quickley is just now starting to pop up on NBA draft boards as a late second-rounder and could work his way into a better position with a return to Kentucky for his junior season.