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MANO A MANO: Top players Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery set for Elite 8 battle
EJ Ash

COVINGTON, Ga. — When Newton and Wheeler meet up Wednesday night in the Elite Eight round of the Class AAAAAAA state tournament at Newton High, it won’t just be a battle of two of the top teams and programs in the state, but also two of the top prep ballers in the country in Newton’s Ashton Hagans and Wheeler’s EJ Montgomery. 

Here’s a tale of the tape between these two players: 

Ashton Hagans, Newton Rams 

THE MEASURABLES: 6-foot-4, 185 pound PG, rated class of 2019’s No. 1 overall prospect in Georgia and No. 8 overall prospect in the nation. He’s also the top-rated point guard in both Georgia and the country, according to

THE STAT SHEET: Hagans is averaging 20.1 points, 10.7 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game to go along with 3.6 steals. He’s shooting a combined 55.2 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line. 

TEAM STANDINGS: Newton is 26-3 overall with a 9-1 record in Region 8-AAAAAAA. Ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAAAA by and ranked No. 3 in Georgia by

WHAT’S NEXT AFTER NEWTON? Currently, Hagans is committed to Georgia as part of coach Mark Fox’s highly regarded recruiting class. Hagans has 32 Division I offers, mainly from Power Five schools, including college hoops blue bloods such as North Carolina and Kansas with strong interest from the likes of Kentucky and Florida State. 

COACH RICK RASMUSSEN SAYS: “Ashton is definitely the real deal. He is having his best year yet, and we are riding this as long as we can. It says a lot about Ashton that he is the only returning starter on our team, but we are back in the Elite Eight for the fourth straight year. He has been playing great and is the best point guard in America. As he goes, we go. I hope we can keep this run going.” 

EJ Montgomery, Wheeler Wildcats 

THE MEASURABLES: 6-foot-10, 200 pound PF, rated class of 2018’s No. 1 overall prospect in Georgia and the No. 12 overall prospect in the nation. He’s also the top-rated power forward in Georgia and the No. 3 power forward in the country, according to

THE STAT SHEET: Montgomery is averaging 26 points, 13 rebounds 4 assists, 2 blocked shots and 2 steals per game for Wheeler. He scored 19 points in Wheeler’s double OT Sweet 16 win against Etowah Saturday.

TEAM STANDINGS: Wheeler is 18-10 overall with an 8-2 record in Region 2-AAAAAAA. Unranked in Class AAAAAAA by and ranked No. 15 in Georgia by

WHAT’S NEXT AFTER WHEELER? Montgomery has yet to commit to a school, but has been offered by Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Clemson and 12 others. projects Montgomery as having 89 percent probability of committing to Duke. He will participate in the prestigious McDonalds All-American Game on March 28 at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta.

COACH LARRY THOMPSON SAYS: “EJ has been our guy, to be honest with you. We’ve jumped on his back from the start, and we’re now in a position to have an opportunity to compete night in and night out with anyone because of him. He’s scoring the ball better for us, and it’s a great thing to have. Without EJ, we’d be somewhat a little troubled, I think, just because of how skilled he is. And he’s a 6-foot-10 guy. Can’t coach that size. But his best skill set is his unselfishness. He sets guys up, maybe not like Ashton (Hagans), but from a back-to-the-basket standpoint. He gets guys open because of how well he passes the ball.”