By LARRY VAUGHT
Give Ashton Hagans credit for owning his turnover problem.
The Kentucky sophomore guard has been turnover prone in Southeastern Conference play, something that can’t continue if UK is going to be a national title contender.
“Just playing my game, it happens. Just leave that in the past whenever that happens and try to fix it the next game,” Hagans said Monday when asked about the turnovers. “But others are playing good right now, so that’s all we’re focusing on and trying to keep getting better.”
Hagans has had five or more turnovers in five of UK’s last 10 games. Assistant coach Joel Justus said Monday Hagans just needs to relax and be Hagans on offense.
“Ashton is a driven, competitive young man that wants to do well first and foremost. And sometimes Ashton comes in and just is trying to make the right play be perfect instead of just taking what’s there and getting our team into some offense or taking a shot,” Justus said.
“He’s trying to get guys involved, and I really think he’s trying to do what Coach (John Calipari) is asking him to do. He’s trying to do what our team is asking him to do. And he wants to win more than anything.”
So is he trying too hard?
“No, I wouldn’t say trying too hard. I would say just being too fast sometimes, rushing a lot of things. Just small things like that that I can fix,” Hagans admitted.
He also won’t deny knowing what Calipari and UK need from him.
“I would say I should have to be good every night because of this team. There’s others out there that do the same, like Johnny (Juzang), he stepped up when I was playing bad (at Tennessee). And that’s what we’re going to need out of a couple of other guys to get a higher seed,” Hagans said.
“But we’re getting there, I’m getting there, trying to get better each and every day.”
Justus said sometimes Hagans has been unlucky on turnovers and at other times has forced passes.
“Sometimes it’s the fact that we haven’t had guys play well when they’ve had their opportunities and now he is playing extended minutes when he should be coming out and grabbing a quick blow,” Justus said. “I don’t think it concerns us; I think it’s just another opportunity for him to learn and grow.
“I mean, he’s still a young basketball player in the grand scheme of things, and for us it gives other guys and opportunity to step up and play well, and thankfully for us they have.”
Hagans studies film to learn how to correct mistakes. He knows the turnovers look “bad” during games.
“But at the same time, it doesn’t look as bad because you can see what you’re actually doing and what you can actually fix and then you see how fast you’re really going when you can actually slow down and get us into something,” Hagans said.
“Once I watch film, I just try to look at the mistakes and try to fix that and talk to my coaches and see what they think about it.”