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John Calipari reacts to Ashton Hagans’ NBA Draft decision

Hagans is gone for good, and Calipari believes he’s ready for the NBA.

Kentucky v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Ashton Hagans is officially off to the NBA, as the Kentucky Wildcats point guard declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Sunday.

This was the expectation all along, and Hagans made it pretty clear in his announcement that he’s not testing the waters but is instead locked in to being part of this year’s draft class, even though it’s unclear when the draft will be due to COVID-19 wiping out sports.

Following the announcement, head coach John Calipari released a statement on Hagans’ decision to go pro.

“Ashton is ready for this,” Calipari said. “From where he was when he got here two seasons ago to where he is now isn’t even close. He’s a completely different player and he’s built his skills and his confidence to take that next step.

“We know what Ashton can do to change the game defensively and how much better he got offensively, but what’s going to separate him is his competitiveness. That kid is a winner. His competitive spirit drives him and is why I love him. If I’m going to battle, I’m taking Ashton.

“I wish we could have had the opportunity to chase his goals of a championship this season but I’m so proud of who Ashton has become. I’m happy for him and his family and will be behind them the entire way.”

The press release also said Hagans will remain in the draft, so there will be no speculation that Hagans could return to school before the draft withdrawal deadline in May.

Hagans appeared in 67 career games for UK with 59 starts. After starting off his career as a reserve, the Georgia native broke through with an unforgettable defensive performance vs. North Carolina in December of 2018, tying the single-game school record with eight steals. He would go on to score in double figures in 13 of the final 26 games to end his freshman campaign.

This past season, Hagans scored in double figures 20 times, including a career-high 26-point performance in a win over Utah Valley. He dished out three or more assists in every game he played this season and recorded five or more in 22 outings, including a career-high-tying 12 vs. UAB. His streak of 10 games with six or more assists midway through the season was the best run by a Wildcat since Roger Harden had six-plus in 12-straight in 1986.

With 351 career assists, Hagans ranks 12th in program history in assists. His 5.24 career assist average ranks fourth in the school record book. Hagans’ assist average this season ranked 16th in the country and first in the SEC.

Hagans was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and was once again UK’s best on-ball defender this season with a team-high 58 steals. He made the SEC All-Defensive Team this past season and was one of four finalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.

With 119 career steals in 67 career games, Hagans averaged 1.776 steals per game for his career. That rate is third all-time in program history, trailing only Rajon Rondo and Derek Anderson.