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Has Ashton Hagans done enough to prove he can play in NBA or will he need to make changes in his game to stay in NBA?

Ashton Hagans (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

University of Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans announced on Sunday that he will forego his last two seasons of eligibility and keep his name in the NBA Draft. Many UK fans will hate to see him leave but don’t count among them his head coach at UK, John Calipari.

“Ashton is ready for this,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “From where he was when he got here two seasons ago to where he is now isn’t even close. He’s a completely different player and he’s built his skills and his confidence to take that next step.”

And Calipari is correct, Hagans is a completely different player from a year ago. But is it enough? Last season Hagans averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. But he also averaged 3.4 turnovers and shot 45 percent  from the field. Even worse Hagans shot 26 percent from 3-point range.

So, the question is, after two seasons, has Hagans done enough to prove to NBA teams that he can play at the next level?

In today’s NBA, teams place a premium on outside shooting. In fact, now more than ever, a player has to be able to hit from the outside. The “outside” being another two feet farther back than college at it’s farthest point. Ben Cohen, sports writer covering the NBA for the Wall Street Journal said in an article recently when discussing the state of shooting in the NBA, “The average NBA player shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc last season — the best shooting year in the last decade. If you can’t shoot, you can’t play in the NBA.”

So, will shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc in college be enough to interest NBA teams in a player that is a defensive wizard playing off the ball? A player that can create shots for his teammates at a 6 assist clip per game level?

Ryan Carr, Director of Scouting for the Indiana Pacers, recently discussed with NBA Sports Camps what he looked for in an NBA player.

“First, I focus on skill level. I watch to see where a player’s skill set is in proportion to other athletes the same age. I also look for athleticism. By athleticism, I not only mean their physical size but also what they are able to accomplish with that size. Athleticism is speed, quickness, strength, as well as potential. Another key factor I look for is basketball IQ — I want to know if they really understand the game,” Carr said.

“For me, Basketball IQ is a player’s ability to limit mistakes. He knows how to make the right play at the right time without forcing. A player with great basketball IQ plays with poise and understands tempo. He can take what the game gives him and make the most of each situation.”

So for Ryan Carr, athleticism, not forcing the play and eliminating mistakes are keys to being an NBA player. I think everyone agrees that Hagans has the athleticism but what about the basketball IQ? One would have to think that at this point Hagans hasn’t proven that he can run the offense from the point guard position without forcing the play or making unforced errors with the basketball.

So back to the original question, has Hagans done enough to prove to NBA teams that he can play at the next level?

Based on the elements that seem to be valued by the NBA — basketball skill, athleticism, shooting and basketball IQ — it seems to me that Hagans will have an extreme uphill battle to be successful in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he can’t make it.

Former UK player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t the best shooter in his class when he decided to leave UK for the NBA. But what he did have was tenacity, willingness to work hard and a winner’s attitude. In fact, David Aldridge of NBA.com said about Kidd-Gilchrist at that time, “MKG is beloved by NBA scouts for a simple reason: he plays hard. His path to the pros is his relentlessness. Playing hard, as I’ll say for the billionth time, is a skill.That gives MKG the nod among every NBA personnel person I spoke with …”

That might be the ticket for Ashton Hagans. Follow in the footsteps of Kidd-Gilchrist. Outwork everyone else on the floor. John Calipari believes he can do just that.

“We know what Ashton can do to change the game defensively and how much better he got offensively, but what’s going to separate him is his competitiveness,” Calipari said. “That kid is a winner. His competitive spirit drives him and is why I love him. If I’m going to battle, I’m taking Ashton.”

So, hearing what Calipari has said and knowing what type player Hagans is, I wouldn’t count him out as a player that can find a spot on an NBA roster. But he will need to bring every intangible he has — along with exceptional defense — every time he hits the floor.

The question is, is he willing to change his game so that he becomes a complementary player instead of a guy that the offense runs through? Is he willing to play smart and make the easy play on offense while turning up the heat on defense?

Only time will tell, but usually time is not something that a lot of potential NBA players get. Here’s hoping Hagans gets his share.

10 comments

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  1. How many times has Ashton driven the ball under the basket with no place to go and turns it over. How many times has he driven the ball to the basket and missed a layup? This is one area that he had very little improvement on the last two years. He needs one or two more years to bring his game up to NBA levels. The game is still too fast for him on offense! Cal always tries to put a positive spin on all his players, so you cannot put much stock in his statements. He has an attitude that is not good at any level and will get him kicked out in the NBA. That can become a cancer on a team; for that reason, i am glad he has moved on!

    He can make it at the next level, but he needs to work hard and change his attitude, or he will just become yesterdays news. I hope he succeeds, but i would not bet on it. I am really getting tired of players that are not ready, go to the league, like Ashton and EJ. I have no problem with Richards, Quickly and Maxey making the move. Why not test the waters and leave the option to come back on the table. Listen to the NBA teams as to your chances at the next level. They will not sugar coat it! That is what a man would do and the NBA is a man’s league.

  2. I am getting sick of people talking about Ashton having a bad attitude. People are taking a incident that happened around one game in a two season college career and labeling him as a bad guy. Get out of here with that crap.

    1. Ashton brought this on himself. You do not get suspended right before the last game of the season and heading into the post season. That is just selfish on his part and there is no defense for that. Matt Jones even stated that he was suspended and Cal was covering for him. If anyone is full of crap, it is you!

  3. IMO Hagans hurt himself this year, especially his AWOL year end mystery absence while UK was driving for a league championship. He may have had a good reason, but us lowly fans will never know. He should have come back and worked on his game, and his image. He could have been the man for UK next year. He has game for sure. I do wish him well at the next level.

    I hardly if ever agree with nostalgic33 here on VV’s, but I for one will be glad to see the OAD era come to a screeching halt in the maybe near future as he boldly predicts. Frankly, I am tiring of the musical chairs and reload every year.

    1. I agree about the OND and reloading each year. It makes it almost impossible to get a number one seed and guarantees at least 5-6 losses each year. Players improve enough to leave after a year or two. Let the best players go directly to the league and bring back college basketball. Should be 4 year scholarships with possible hardship after 3 years only. Let the coaches build a team like in the old days.

    2. LP,
      You are right about Ashton on all counts. Its too bad he couldn’t have read your post before making his decision to leave. His game and his life would have benefited from another year at UK.
      I would try to see things your way on the many other things we don’t agree on, but then we would both be wrong most of the time.

      1. Oh really, Catmandoo1000, Mike, now nostalgic33, which one is it? Take your choice. Either way, Catmandoo1000 and Mike mysteriously vanished off this site right after the holidays. The mighty Pup took them down is what happened. Put that in your pipe and smoke it 33. It pains me to ever agree with you on anything involving UK sports. LOL’s.

  4. Looked like it was time for Ashton to go at the end of the year. Looked like he wanted to move on. Good luck!. Hope he makes it in the NBA, but looks more like G League or overseas.

  5. Does anyone know Larry Pup’s therapist. He seems to be out of medicine. Has he exhibited this kind of behavior in the past?

  6. I wish Ashton all the best. While I also am going to address some of the things being posted on this site.

    1st. I am amazed that people here think that if a young man plays two years at UK then leaves and then ends up in the D league or over seas is some how a failure. That from people who NEVER IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES started for UK. WOW that is more than laughable. If he were a high school drop out who later got his GED then started a lawn service that paid him 30K a year(which is far less than a player makes overseas not to mention the experience of a life time) he would be a success.

    2nd. Read the article about Derek Willis. D League then overseas and loving it. It took him 4 years at UK to get there so if that is Ashton’s result he is getting paid two years quicker and he can still get his degree through the Cawood Ledford Scholarship program at UK.

    3. They changed to old way for a reason. It was decidedly unfair to the players PERIOD. Some coaches ruled over players, controlled and ruined careers and were never held accountable for the BS they did. I for one do not long for the days of Woody Hays and Bobby Knight.

    Lastly putting down young men who chose to come to UK for any reason is wrong IMHO. THOSE WHO CAN’T CRITICIZE ! ! !

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