UK has been looking for another backcourt player for its recruiting class of 2018.
Its top target might have become more clear Thursday.
The Wildcats have extended a scholarship offer to Ashton Hagans, one of the top prospects in the class of 2019 and a player who has been considering a move to reclassify to 2018, which would allow him to play college basketball next season.
Hagans — a 6-foot-4 point guard from Covington, Ga. — has become one of the hottest recruits in the country since his decommitment from the Georgia Bulldogs last month.
He was one of the first players that new Georgia head coach Tom Crean called when he got the job. He was one of the first players that Penny Hardaway visited once he became the head coach at Memphis. He was one of the first prospects to receive a scholarship offer from Louisville after the Cardinals hired Chris Mack this week.
And now he has an offer from Kentucky.
“It’s great,” said Ashton’s father, Marvin Hagans. “Us as a family, we’re thrilled. We’re really thrilled with all offers. We appreciate them all. It’s great. How many kids do you know that wouldn’t want an offer from Kentucky and Louisville and all those guys? That’s why they do what they do.”
Hagans’ father said the family would sit down and discuss all of the star player’s options moving forward. He said Hagans is currently concentrating on his studies and plans to play this spring and summer for Game Elite on the Adidas circuit. He also said a college decision shouldn’t be expected anytime soon.
His father didn’t say so, but recruiting analysts have speculated for weeks that UK might jump to frontrunner status with a scholarship offer this spring.
Hagans is currently ranked by 247Sports as the No. 6 overall recruit and No. 1 point guard in the class of 2019, but there have been rumblings for months — even before his original commitment to Georgia last fall — that he was working on a move to 2018.
“My guess would be he ends up in the 2018 class,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader earlier this month.
With UK freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander now projected as a possible lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Cats have been looking for another talented guard to match up with freshman Quade Green, who is likely to return to UK for his sophomore season, and incoming point guard Immanuel Quickley, who played this week in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Quickley told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday that he would be all for Kentucky adding Hagans for next season.
“It’s basically the business of basketball. Playing point guards together, playing guards together,” he said. “And he’s real versatile as well, so I think we can both play together.”
Quickley has repeatedly said that he’d be fine playing in an off-the-ball role at UK next season, and he acknowledged that John Calipari has had success with multiple point guard sets — like John Wall and Eric Bledsoe in his first season, and Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray two seasons ago.
“Whoever’s on the floor — I’m a versatile player; and pretty much all those guards you mentioned are versatile players — that’s what the game is going to, NBA and college, and it makes your team harder to guard,” Quickley said.
UK’s other McDonald’s All-American, Keldon Johnson, is also familiar with Hagans’ game.
“He’s a dog,” Johnson told the Herald-Leader this week. “He gets down and plays defense, and he’s very physical.”
Hagans attended the Powerade Jam Fest with his father during McDonald’s All-American week, and they both said at that event that an offer from Kentucky would be big, though, at that point, UK had only been in contact with Hagans’ AAU coach. Louisville extended an offer the next night.
Marvin Hagans talked to the Herald-Leader on Thursday about their thoughts on UK and Calipari, who called his son with the offer earlier in the day.
“It speaks for itself. I shouldn’t have to answer that,” he said with a laugh. “Everything at Kentucky speaks for itself. ... Everybody knows what Cal is special at. Me and his mother, we’re all ecstatic. But Ashton still has to work.”
As of now, he’s one of the best perimeter players in the country, regardless of class.
“He’s really talented,” Daniels said. “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.”
Hagans averaged 20.2 points, 10.7 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game as a junior this past season, earning Georgia Mr. Basketball honors last week.
He’s also a different type of player than Quickley and Green, and he should be able to complement each of those Wildcats at the next level … if he picks Kentucky.
“He can certainly play with those other guys,” Daniels said earlier this month. “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.”