BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When the time came for SEC men’s basketball postseason accolades to be doled out, Kentucky freshman and former Newton Rams standout Ashton Hagans, and his stellar freshman season, could not be denied.
Hagans was named to the SEC’s all-defensive team and was selected co-defensive player of the year with LSU sophomore Tremont Waters. Hagans averaged 7.8 points per game during the regular season, but also tallied 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game ins first year in Lexington.
His high-water mark as a defender came when he tied a school record with eight steals in No. 10 Kentucky’s 80-72 win over ninth-ranked North Carolina back in late December, drawing praise from legendary Tar Heels coach Roy Williams for his defensive dominance.
One week after that game, the 6-foot-3 point guard started to find his scoring touch, starting with a then-career high performance of 11 points against bitter rival Louisville. That started a streak of five straight games where he scored in double figures, culminating with his new career high of 23 points in his January 15 homecoming against Georgia.
Hagans has hit double figures four more times since the Georgia game and swiped three or more steals in nine other games after his coming out party against North Carolina. He closed the regular season with 14 points in Saturday’s 66-57 win over Florida. The Wildcats get a bye in the SEC Tournament until its quarterfinals game on Friday in Nashville.
Hagans is the second former Newton basketball player to garner conference defensive player of the year honors. UNC-Greensboro sophomore Isaiah Miller won the same for the Southern Conference last week.
More accolades could be coming Hagans' way as he is a semifinalist for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year award.