“I remember watching John Wall play at Kentucky and Isaiah Briscoe too; those are two players that I looked up to so to be able to be the next point guard there at Kentucky is big for me.”
Those are the exact words of Ashton Hagans after committing to Kentucky in an April 10 blog posting for USA Today Sports.
Hagans, who if you don’t know, is the top-rated point guard in the state of Georgia for the 2019 class and is listed as the No. 17 prospect in the 2019 ESPN Super 60 (he’s now ranked 12th overall in 2018 by 247 Sports).
Reclassification into 2018 is now complete for Hagans, who joins a stacked group of guards for the ‘Cats next season that includes Quade Green, Immanuel Quickley and the sharp-shooting Tyler Herro.
During his nine seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has had some of the highest-rated point guards in each recruiting class and to this day, it’s still pretty clear that Wall is the best one.
Even if you didn’t factor in Wall’s success in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, Wall was easily the most dynamic backcourt player Calipari has coached in Lexington. (The “backcourt” description is important because that Anthony Davis guy exists, too, and he’s pretty good.)
What’s interesting for me personally is that, De’Aaron Fox was a dynamite guard for Calipari in his one season in Lexington and there’s a chance that Hagans is 1) not only as good, if not better than Fox and 2) his playing style fits what you’d expect when you watch Fox play.
These clips are from a game when Hagans, who originally was a Georgia commit before Mark Fox’s termination in Athens, and there are some similarities with Hagans and Fox’s games (other than they both wore No. 0 at some point in their playing days).
Read this description of Hagans’ game from 247 Sports:
“Hagans is one of the most competitive player in the country, regardless of class. Hagans has impressive court vision and is a very good passer. He also has a ton of potential on the defensive side of the ball, because of his size, length, physical play and lateral quickness. Hagans is particularly impressive in transition and he plays well through contact. The next step for Hagans is continuing to develop his long-range jump shot, which currently lacks consistency.”
Sound quite familiar, doesn’t it?
Before we move on, watch this play again. But this time, envision Fox at the controls driving down the baseline and dishing to a camped Bam Adebayo in the lane for a big slam. Adds up, doesn’t it?
This was the most De’Aaron Fox play I saw from Hagans. Not only did he steal the inbound pass on the baseline out of bounds set, he gathered the ball, went coast-to-coast and finished at the rim for the bucket.
(It definitely resembles some Wall as well, but he, uh ... finishes ... a little bit stronger than his fellow ‘Cats.)
Hagans doesn’t have the speed that Fox or Wall have, but the ability to stay engaged on both ends is going to take him a long way and will keep him on the floor in Lexington a lot if he uses defense to jump-start his and Kentucky’s offensive attack.
You see a lot of point guards take this shot. The game of basketball continues to evolve with so much emphasis on 3-point shooting and spacing, but the mid-range game is also a needed asset for a guard.
This looked like a play from the Fox playbook, too.
And sometimes, you just need your point guard to be an absolute animal like Fox and Wall could be at times. I almost jumped out of my seat watching this the first time.
Let’s go back to this set from Fox back in 2016 against Tennessee. It’s a flip of the look you’ll see Hagans’ team run, but it’s the same concept: penetrate and kick to an open shooter.
Here’s Hagans in a pick-and-roll look where he kicks out to a shooter on the opposite wing.
Hagans is now officially part of the 2018-19 Wildcats, which is just ridiculous when you factor in him with the guard depth in place already, not to mention All-Pac-12 First-Team big man Reid Travis considering making a graduate transfer to Lexington from Stanford, too.
This very well could be the most dominant non-2014-15 team that Calipari has had during his stint with Kentucky. PJ Washington coming back is a huge jolt in the arm and if Travis joins him, the ‘Cats could be as dominant up front as they are in the backcourt, and Hagans is a factor in that.
Silly minor violation from Calipari or not, Hagans is going to be an absolute dog for Kentucky and is going to push his backcourt mates in Lexington hard.
Who knew that Tom Crean coming into the SEC would be so beneficial for the ‘Cats right off the bat?