Kentucky landed its second five-star commitment in the last 24 hours when ESPN 60 guard Ashton Hagans announced he was headed to Lexington on Tuesday morning. Here's a look at what he'll bring to Lexington.
Why he committed: The news was hardly a surprise as Hagans’ commitment has been rumored ever since he decommitted from Georgia in March. The fact that it came just a day after Shai Gilgeous-Alexander announced he would enter the 2018 NBA draft is fitting given the two are cut from a similar cloth and it was the rapid ascension of Gilgeous-Alexander that created an additional need for Kentucky at the point guard position that they didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the year. Hagans is working on completing coursework that will allow him to reclassify to 2018 and join Kentucky as a freshman next year, thus allowing him to step into the role created by Gilgeous-Alexander’s departure.
What he brings: Hagans is a big lead guard with positional size, length and explosiveness. His physical profile is one for the very highest levels and he’s only going to continue to become more powerful. He owns the competitiveness to maximize his physical gifts as he’s an aggressive playmaker offensively and a potentially elite defender. He plays with an attacking mentality on both ends of the floor, creates pace with the ball in his hands and can manufacture shots for both himself and others. He’s also a playmaker on the defensive end as he can get his head on the ball for the length of the floor and create turnovers. Right now, he’s most effective playing north to south in an uptempo type system. He needs to continue to develop the nuances of the point guard position, become a more consistent shooter and learn to value the basketball more (i.e. cut down on his turnovers, especially his “live ball” turnovers).
How the class is shaping up: With commitments from E.J. Montgomery on Monday and Hagans on Tuesday, John Calipari has secured commitments from five five-star prospects, assuming Hagans is able to reclassify as planned, for the third consecutive year. The class was assembled in a manner that is reminiscent of Calipari’s 2015 group, when he landed a reclassified Jamal Murray and Isaac Humphries late, to finish second in the national rankings behind Duke. More important though than how or when it was put together, is the way in which this 2018 class addresses the flaws in Kentucky’s roster. This is a much more perimeter-oriented group than we’ve seen from Kentucky in recent years and should be able to balance out a roster that was too frontcourt heavy this season. Immanuel Quickley is more of a traditional point guard and distributor than Hagans while Keldon Johnson is an aggressive scorer with a physical style on the wing and Tyler Herro a much needed shooter. Montgomery, a bouncy 6-foot-10 southpaw with inside-out tools, is the only frontcourt piece in the class.
How he fits: With Hagans and Quickley set to join rising sophomore Quade Green in the backcourt, Kentucky will get back to having multiple ball handlers and dribble drivers together on the floor. For Hagans in particular, the luxury of being able to play alongside another more traditional point guard should allow him to more freely attack without being exposed for his still evolving decision-making. Overall, the increased depth and talent at the guard spots will allow the rest of the lineup to play their more natural positions. Assuming Hamidou Diallo follows Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox to the NBA, Herro and Johnson will join rising sophomore Jemarl Baker on the wing to give Calipari six true perimeter players to rotate through his three spots. Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel can play their true position at the four while Nick Richards provides a true five in the middle of the lineup and Montgomery a versatile piece up front. Should PJ Washington elect to return as well that would be another huge boost for a Kentucky team that should have as much sheer depth and talent, now at all five positions, as anyone in the country.