UK Men's Basketball

A new UK basketball target, E.J. Montgomery’s timetable and other recruiting notes

Ashton Hagans was one of the top players on the Adidas travel circuit last summer.
Ashton Hagans was one of the top players on the Adidas travel circuit last summer. adidas

With UK still looking to add at least one more basketball recruit to its class of 2018 and the options few, a new possibility popped up on the radar last week.

Five-star point guard Ashton Hagans — a 6-3 prospect from Covington, Ga. — announced last Monday that he is no longer committed to the home-state Georgia Bulldogs, and within a couple of days coaches from North Carolina, N.C. State, Georgetown and Marquette made the trip south to see him play.

Many more coaches will follow in the near future.

“He’s really talented,” 247Sports director of recruiting Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week. “What I like about him is he’s got tremendous size for the position at 6-3, pushing 6-4. He’s strong. He’s tough. He’s physical. And he’s one of the best competitors that I’ve covered. This guy competes on both ends of the floor … and takes a lot of pride in his defense. He takes matchups seriously.”

Offensively, Daniels described Hagans as a very talented passer who has great court vision and excels at getting to the basket and turning drives into buckets.

He’ll be a major player for whichever school lands his commitment, and — though he’s currently a member of the recruiting class of 2019 — the expectation in recruiting circles is that he’ll end up playing college basketball next season.

“My guess would be he ends up in the 2018 class,” Daniels said, noting that he still has some coursework to complete to make reclassification possible.

Hagans was on UK’s recruiting radar early in his high school career — he even visited for Big Blue Madness as a sophomore — but the Herald-Leader was told late last year that Kentucky backed off of his recruitment when it became clear that he would likely end up in the 2018 class.

After losing out on the recruitment of Zion Williamson, who picked Duke, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was asked about UK’s recruiting on Monday.

At that point, UK was about to land a commitment from five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, and freshmen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green were considered multi-year college players.

Now, Gilgeous-Alexander is projected as a first-round draft pick, and the Herald-Leader was told last week that UK would indeed be interested in Hagans as a 2018 recruit.

UK is still expected to return Green, but he has excelled playing off the ball and splitting time at the point late this season. And Quickley, like Hagans, is a versatile guard who has already said he wouldn’t mind sharing the backcourt with another point guard.

“He can certainly play with those other guys,” Daniels said of Hagans. “I think Ashton is the type of guy that probably needs the ball in his hands a little bit more because of his lack of shooting. But he’s also a guy that you can throw out on the floor because of his ability to impact the game on the defensive end, in transition, and with his passing. If you put him next to a guy like Quade Green, who can really shoot, then you’ve got a really good tandem.”

Quickley is long enough to defend both guard spots, and Daniels said Hagans could do that as well. “He can guard ‘3s’, for that matter,” he added.

Hagans doesn’t appear to be in any rush to make another commitment. Daniels said it could be another couple of months or so before it’s clear which schools will make him a priority.

247Sports currently ranks Hagans as the No. 6 overall recruit in the 2019 class.

Montgomery’s timetable

As of now, five-star power forward E.J. Montgomery is the only recruit in the class of 2018 with a scholarship offer from Kentucky.

Montgomery — a 6-10 prospect from Marietta, Ga. — played the final game of his high school career last week. (His team was eliminated by Ashton Hagans’ squad in the state playoffs).

Before that, Montgomery took unofficial visits to Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky over the span of a couple of weeks — his first major recruiting moves since backing out of a commitment to Auburn last fall. 247Sports’ Evan Daniels was the only recruiting analyst to interview Montgomery following each of those three trips.

E.J. Montgomery is the No. 6 player in the 247Sports rankings for 2018. Adidas

“I think we’re going to see them really dive into this process and try to come up with a decision,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week.

That decision could still be a little ways off, however.

Montgomery has said that he wants to take official visits — but he still hasn’t decided whether he will take all five of those — and his participation in the McDonald’s All-American Game later this month, along with most of the top schools on his list playing in the NCAA Tournament, will make it difficult to schedule such visits anytime soon.

Daniels said he could see Montgomery’s recruitment stretching past the McDonald’s Game, which is scheduled for March 28 in Atlanta.

“It’s only three weeks away, so if he’s going to take some official visits, this thing is going to go a little longer,” he said. “Unless he just decides, ‘Hey, I’ve seen the schools that matter to me most.’ And then he doesn’t need to take those official visits. I would guess that he takes some more visits, but I could see it going either way.”

There has been a flurry of pro-Duke picks on Montgomery’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page this winter, but Daniels, who has a 96 percent success rate with 2018 recruits and the Crystal Ball, has not yet logged a prediction in this recruitment.

“You know how I am. I don’t like to make a prediction unless I have a good idea. And the truth is, I don’t think E.J. Montgomery knows where he wants to go to school,” he said. “So it’s hard for me to know. Obviously those three schools he took unofficial visits to recently are three schools that he’s strongly considering. So — and this is me saying it, not him — I would guess that those three are probably at the very top of his list.”

There’s a little sliver of hope for UK fans.

In-state watch

UK Coach John Calipari and assistant coach Joel Justus made the trip to Henderson County on Monday night to see class of 2019 guard KyKy Tandy play in the 2nd Region finals, and the in-state star didn’t disappoint.

Tandy — a 6-1 prospect — scored 33 points and led University Heights to a 78-70 victory over Christian County, a win that clinched a spot in next week’s Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.

University Heights will play the 10th Region champs (either Scott or Campbell County) at noon Thursday in Rupp. If UHA wins that one, it’ll play at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Tandy entered the region tournament averaging 30.6 points per game and making 45 percent of his three-point shots this season. UK is monitoring his recruitment for a potential scholarship offer down the road and hosted him for a visit a couple of weeks ago.

Also in Rupp next week will be Trinity guard David Johnson, a former Louisville commitment and the No. 1-ranked player in the state for the 2019 class. Johnson is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 44.5 percent from threes for the Shamrocks, who defeated Ballard on Monday night to win the 7thRegion. They’ll face Scott County at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the opening day of the Sweet Sixteen.

247Sports ranks Johnson as the No. 41 player nationally in the 2019 class. He has visited UK in the past, and U of L has continued to make him a top priority since his decommitment.

Herro’s numbers

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had a rather amazing stat on UK signee Tyler Herro following his latest offensive outpouring over the weekend.

Herro — a 6-5 shooting guard — has scored fewer than 30 points just once in 12 games since being sidelined briefly with a calf injury midway through the season. He’s averaged 38 points in those games and has scored more than 40 points five times in that span.

The future Wildcat surpassed 2,000 points for his high school career during a 34-point performance in the Wisconsin state playoffs Friday night. His next game is Thursday.