By LARRY VAUGHT
After a tumultuous outing Tuesday against Tennessee where he basically told coach John Calipari he didn’t want to go back in the game, sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans did not make the trip for today’s game at Florida.
Even though Kentucky coach John Calipari tried to downplay what happened during his pregame press conference on Friday and made no mention of Hagans not making the trip, there obviously is something major happening.
“Ashton did not make the trip with us to Florida,” Calipari tweeted Saturday before today’s game at Florida. “He and I met a couple days ago and he asked to step away for a couple days for personal reasons. I support his decision. We are going to need him at 100% for the postseason.”
So obviously Calipari knew all this Friday and chose to wait to probably limit the distraction even a little bit more. However, I wondered immediately what was going on Friday when freshman teammate Keion Brooks Jr. said the team still “supported” Hagans. That is not an ordinary answer when asked about a teammate’s struggles.
Calipari said on his pregame radio show he didn’t announce Hagans not playing to avoid having his teammates have to deal with it.
“It had nothing to do with them,” Calipari said.
There’s no indication — yet — that Hagans won’t be with the team at next week’s SEC Tournament. In fact, Hagans posted this on Twitter just a bit ago: “Let’s Get this Win Fellas!!! Love y’all boyss￼Be back & Better!!!”
Former UK All-American Rex Chapman said on the Kentucky Radio Network pregame coverage with Dave Baker that he didn’t think Hagans’ situation had to be a season-ending type disruption.
“Where is everybody that a week ago said we needed to lose a game? Now the sky is falling,” Chapman said. “We are going through some adversity. Ashton will be humbled by this but I hope our whole team learns from this. Ashton is not the only one learning.”
Hagans has not be a troublesome player. He’s played through injuries and if teammates have ever had a problem with him, it has been well hidden. I have thought from day one this team had terrific chemistry. Maybe it’s something non-basketball related bothering Hagans. Maybe he’s just worn down — remember a week ago Calipari had indicated that Hagans was not 100 percent physically and was considering trying to rest him in one of UK’s final two games.
Calipari said on the postgame radio show that he “hopes” Hagans is “ready to go” next week.
“This is about the health and the well being of these kids,” Calipari said. “He needed time to get his health and body right.”
Calipari said he’s dealt with this type issue before but never so late in the season.
“Again, if you care about kids and they are not right … and there’s all kind of reasons. Things these kids have to deal with. What is at stake for each of these kids was not the case 25 years ago. Players dealing with stuff college basketball players never had to deal with before. Take each kid and what is best for these kids,”
Calipari told Tom Leach. “Sometimes you have to step away and get this right.”
Calipari plans to use freshman Tyrese Maxey at point guard and says he’s anxious to see how he does.
“They may press us with him at the point and make him make plays,” Calipari said.