Kentucky's Ashton Hagans Declares for 2020 NBA Draft

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2020

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 29:   Ashton Hagans #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Rupp Arena on January 29, 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans announced Sunday he's decided to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility with the Wildcats to enter the 2020 NBA draft.

Hagans made an immediate impact as a freshman when he joined LSU's Tremont Waters as the 2019 SEC Co-Defensive Players of the Year.

The 20-year-old Georgia native opted to remain at UK, and his counting stats improved in his second season at the collegiate level. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals across 30 appearances before the 2019-20 campaign ended early because of the coronavirus pandemic.

His offensive efficiency continued to lag behind the other areas of his game, though. He shot just 40.4 percent from the field, including 25.8 percent from three-point range.

In January, Wildcats head coach John Calipari also expressed concern about the guard's mental lapses at both ends of the floor that often overshadowed his strong performances.

"He's 15-9-9—almost a triple-double—and I said, 'That's how much I think of you. You're a triple-double, and I'm saying you're better. You're still undisciplined both offensively and defensively. You make four or five plays a half that hurt our team, and only because of discipline,'" Calipari told reporters.

Hagans' upside is evident, though. There are stretches in which he plays like a top-five pick. Getting to that level on a more regular basis is still a major work in progress, however, and whether he eventually develops that consistency will determine what type of player he'll become in the NBA.

Making the leap to the pros now comes with risk. He's not a lock to land in the first round because of his up-and-down play at Kentucky, and second-round picks often face a long-and-winding road to becoming stalwart members of an NBA roster. The Athletic's Sam Vecenie had Hagans No. 54 on his April 2 big board, putting him firmly in the second-round conversation. 

Hagans is betting on himself to make an immediate impact during summer league (if there is one this year) and preseason play to earn a roster spot. He has a chance to become one of the draft's biggest steals, but he's not a lock to become a high-impact pro player.

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