COVINGTON, Ga. — It’s official. Five-star point guard prospect and Kentucky pledge Ashton Hagans has graduated Newton High School Thursday and will join the already much-hyped 2018 Kentucky basketball recruiting class and team Sunday.
Hagans, named Mr. Georgia Basketball, Gatorade’s boys basketball player of the year for Georgia along with a plethora of other postseason accolades, was considered the top overall recruit in Georgia for 2019 and the No. 1 ranked point guard in the country.
The 6-foot-4 floor general had originally committed to Georgia, but backed off that commitment once former coach Mark Fox was fired. Shortly after, Kentucky offered and on April 10, Hagans committed, calling the UK offer “the one I’ve been waiting for.”
Now, Wildcats fans won’t have to wait until 2019 to see Hagans slip into Kentucky blue and white.
“It’s probably one of the best times in my life,” Hagans said. “I finished my last class and turned in my last bit of work yesterday. I had to finish a test and finish my online class before I could do anything else. But when it was finished we had the cap and gown ready and just went to take pictures.”
Marvin Hagans, Ashton’s father, called the achievement a load off of both his and his son’s shoulders.
“It’s like the greatest relief ever,” Marvin Hagans said. “It was so hard because Ashton was doing both years at the same time. But he stayed focused and he really started to understand the things I’ve been trying to tell him, and once that happened I knew he was going to do it.”
What Ashton did was pin his ears back and do what was necessary to graduate from Newton a year early and officially reclassify to the class of 2018. That meant taking five extra classes, including math, forensics and science classes and a Florida Virtual online class, in addition to normal junior year course work.
Add to that workouts and AAU basketball, and there wasn’t much time for anything else in Ashton’s life.
“It was really just knowing that I had to wake up and go to school every morning, then at the end of the day I had to work on another thing for extra class, then workouts,” he said. “I just realized, I’m still a kid, but at the same time I’m not the same as everyone else. My dad was always telling me I’ve gotta move differently from everyone else, stay in my own lane and accomplish my goals.”
From as early as his eighth grade year, Ashton’s set forth as his goal to be one of the top high school players in Georgia and to find his way to Kentucky — a school and program he’s had in high regard since watching John Wall play for head coach John Calipari.
In order to do that, though, Marvin Hagans said he had to sound like a broken record at times in an effort to get his son to stay focused.
“Trust the process,” Marvin said. “That’s what I kept saying to him. I don’t mean this to be funny, but I told him, he’s no normal kid. In a way he is, but I had to help him understand that he can’t do what everybody else does. He has to be different.”
On the court, Hagans was definitely different. His junior season at Newton was special, as he averaged over 20 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds per game, helping guide a Rams bunch back to the Class AAAAAAA Final Four, despite Hagans having to lead four new starters on the floor.
He had a chance to go to prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia after his sophomore season, but opted, instead, to stay in Covington and prove to himself, and others, that everything he needed for the next level was already in his grasp.
“It was big for me to stay home and do this,” he said. “I just wanted to try to do it on my own and with my family supporting me through it all. I wanted to go to Oak Hill at first because it was a big stage, and the coaches were amazing and being there could put you in the big time tournaments and big time games where everybody can see you play. But then again, I chose to stay because I wanted to set standards for myself and show everybody how I could do big things from right here.”
After a celebration gathering Saturday, Hagans will head to Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday morning to officially join the Wildcats’ squad, and that top ranked 2018 recruiting class that includes Wheeler’s EJ Montgomery, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickly and Tyler Herro.
And though Hagans said he was low-key working on reclassifying while he was still committed to Georgia, he acknowledged the opportunity to play with such a ballyhooed bunch served as extreme motivation for him.
“It’s actually big because I’ve always told my AAU coach that I wanted to play with EJ,” Ashton said. “(The reclassification) would’ve happened if I was still going to Georgia if coach (Mark) Fox had’ve stayed there. I was still trying to get to the class of ’18 then, but just in case it didn’t happen, I just told everyone to stay on the lookout.
“But now that I’ll be playing with guys like Immanuel, Tyler and Keldon, it was a big reason why I wanted to do this. We’re all gonna come in and kind of know each other. The biggest thing will just be finding out where everybody likes to get the ball, and what spots guys want to be in and stuff like that.”
As for college, Hagans said he’s thought about majoring in sports management at Kentucky. But he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s adamant about chasing a blue chip basketball player’s biggest dream.
“Going (one-and-done) to the NBA is the plan,” he said. “But if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go for year two. We’ll just see how the first year goes.”
Year one for Ashton Hagans officially starts Sunday. Upon his arrival to Lexington, he said he’ll jump right into a team camp on Sunday, and then spend his days “working in the lab” trying to get better.
In other words, no time to rest on his high school graduation laurels.
“I know that from here on out it’s just about business,” he said. “Actually, it’s already been about business. But now it’s like I’m stepping onto the next stage and the next step. I know it’s gonna be hard, but I’m ready for it.”