CHICAGO — A record-tying outing for Kentucky freshman and former Newton Rams standout, Ashton Hagans won him some SEC accolades Monday afternoon.
Following a stellar defensive performance Saturday in Kentucky’s win over No. 9 North Carolina where Hagans recorded a record-tying eight steals along with seven points, four rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes on the floor, the 2017-18 Mr. Georgia Basketball award winner was named SEC Freshman of the Week.
Hagans’ big game helped No. 19 Kentucky to an 80-72 upset of the Tar Heels at the United Center in Chicago.
The win was arguably the Wildcats’ first marquee victory of the season. Although Kentucky has raced out to an 9-2 record, it’s other two games against top flight competition ended short of expectations.
First there was the 34-point loss at the hands of top-ranked Duke early in the season, then a one point loss to Seton Hall.
Hagans himself has been in and out of coach John Calipari’s starting lineup — lately more in, thanks to showing some flashes, particularly as a defender and passer.
For the season, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound freshman has averaged 3.8 points, 3.1 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game. But his eight steals ties a UK single-game record held by Rajon Rondo and Wayne Turner.
Hagans is one of a handful of former Newton ballers excelling at the collegiate level, and Newton boys coach, Rick Rasmussen expressed pride in seeing Hagans use his defensive ability to carve out his own unique niche on a Kentucky roster loaded with 5-star talents and likely future NBA draft picks.
“It’s good to see that Ashton is now back in that starting lineup,” Rasmussen said. “I think Coach Cal figured out Ashton’s a very good defender and can help the team a lot in that way. That was a big game for him, and I’m sure it was an extra special moment for him, playing on the United Center floor where the Chicago Bulls of the NBA play.”
Kentucky will next face in-state rival Louisville Saturday and won’t play again until it opens SEC play against Alabama on Saturday January 5.