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Keion Brooks Jr. on Ashton Hagans: “We’re not going to give up on him.”

Ashton Hagans (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If you believe Kentucky coach John Calipari there’s no reason to worry about chemistry issues on his team despite what happened Tuesday when UK blew a 17-point lead in the second half and lost to Tennessee.

Teammates Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards yelled at each other on the court. Hagans seemed to tell Calipari he would not go back in the game and then when he did go on his play was lacking. Other players just seemed to lack focus and energy the final 10 minutes.

So is Calipari concerned about the body language in that game going into Saturday afternoon’s game at Florida — the final game before postseason play stars.

“Nah, heat of the moment, some of that stuff. When you coach young kids, this is what pops out sometimes,” Calipari said. “And you won’t believe this, I get emotional so I don’t mind when other people get emotional. I get it.”

He’s right. I don’t believe. He might accept it but no way he can like having players yelling at each other in games or having a player refuse to go into a game even though — as expected — he downplayed the encounter with Hagans.

“Look, I’ve done this before: There are sometimes I’ll go to a guy and ask him, ‘Do you want to go in?’ If he says, ‘No,’ I say, ‘OK,’ we move on,” Calipari said.

“Some of it’s late-game stuff because I had to sit there when I played and there’s 25 seconds left in the game and you go, ‘OK, go in and get that guy.’ And then there’s the clock running down and no one does anything, and then five seconds to go you walk into the game and you walk in and he subs, so I’ll do that.”

Maybe that happened to Calipari late in games he played or maybe he’s had that issue in the final minute of a game at Kentucky. But this was not late in the game. It was not even midway of the second half when it happened with Hagans. So no, that explanation doesn’t start to explain what happened.

“We’ve got a young team that’s growing and learning and learn from every situation,” Calipari said.

Now that hopefully is true.

Maybe freshman Keion Brooks Jr. was a little more honest/open in his evaluation of what the team is doing to support Hagans when he was asked about it Friday.

“Just been continuing to let him know that we love him and care about him. We’re doing everything we can to help him. Everybody goes through their lulls, their bad stretches. We’re not going to give up on him,” Brooks said.

Again, that’s acknowledging the obvious — Hagans has had “bad stretches” even if Calipari won’t say so.

“We’re going to continue to let him know that he’s a great player. He’s going to break through and, like I said, just continue to love him and support him,” Brooks said.

4 comments

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  1. Issues like this with the coach and a player are better left in the locker room.

  2. Ashton has played his way out of the NBA draft, at least for this year, and he is pissed. He does not want to come back next year, but its either that or transfer. We don’t have a true point guard for next year, but we don’t need one that puts his personal agenda ahead of the team’s agenda. He needs to accept that he is not going to the NBA this year, come back for two more years, get his degree and then see where his game is. Not every kid that comes here makes it to the NBA. He very well may not make it, but he will have his degree and a future, even if it may be outside of basketball.

  3. “They made it clear that it was a formality and the offer will come in the near future. Everybody just wanted to get around each other and vibe with each other,” Clark said. “They said that he’s a Kentucky player and they hold him in very, very high regard.”

    Clark is a guard currently being recruited by Calipari. I wonder how Ashton Hagans felt when he read this quote?

    I wonder if Calipari told Hagans the same thing when Hagans was weighing his options for his ONE YEAR in basketball purgatory waiting for his ticket to the NBA?

    Yes, some kids come in here with no reasonable expectation of getting that ticket in 1 year and did exactly that. When that happens, it is supposed to signify proof positive that this “players first” system is clearly the way it should be.

    Now, we see another example of the other side of the same coin. We have seen this frustration play out with other players over the last decade, Hagans is simply the most recent.

    Promises made, promises …………

    1. Clark said. “And Coach Cal was like, ‘Hey look, if you’re a guard and you’re looking to come to Kentucky for four years, this ain’t the place for you. He’s looking to get you on to bigger things.”

      Wrong quote in the post. This is the one I thought I grabbed.

      Sorry.

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