LEXINGTON, KY — Accolades for Kentucky true freshman point guard Ashton Hagans keep piling in. Thas been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year award.
Nominations are driven by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which is the same organizes that chooses Naismith Player of the Year, along with several other prestigious high school hoops accolades.
.@H23Ash is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been one of the main keys behind our transformation into one of the best defensive teams in the country.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 21, 2019
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The late-season watch list debuted on Thursday, and the 6-foot-3 Newton High product is one of only three freshmen — Duke’s Zion Williamson and Tre Jones being the others — to be named to the list.
Hagans averages 7.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats. But his claim to fame this season has been defensively. He’s averaging two steals per game, but truly burst on the scene when he swiped a school-record tying eight steals back in December in an 80-72 win against No. 9 North Carolina.
After that game, Hagans went on a tear of five games where e scored double figures, including a career-high 23 points on his January 15 homecoming game against Georgia in Athens. He also had 12 points in a 71-63 victory against top 10 Kansas, and his nine points, seven assists and two steals helped the Wildcats knock off top-ranked Tennessee in an 86-69 rout at home.
This time last year, Hagans was a junior at Newton, helping the Rams to a Class AAAAAAA Final Four finish en route to being named Mr. Georgia Basketball and being widely considered the No. 1 point guard prospect in the nation.
In his most recent action, he scored 12 points in a 66-58 road win at Missouri. Hagans and Kentucky will be back in action Saturday when the Wildcats host Auburn.