MARIETTA, Ga. — Ashton Hagans, the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2019, had already done plenty of foreshadowing about his possible reclassification and early enrollment at Kentucky.
And here he was, after all, having driven an hour at 9 p.m. on a school night to work out with incoming Wildcats big man E.J. Montgomery “just in case.”
But then Hagans, who committed to UK six weeks ago, cut straight to the point. After a wide-ranging interview with SEC Country, he was asked whether there was anything else he wanted Big Blue Nation to know.
“Just be on the lookout,” he said. “Tell them I’m coming. Coming soon.”
Hagans and his father Marvin explained Tuesday night that he needed to complete four extra courses online — on which he started working back in November — to graduate high school this summer. He has finished three of them and is nearly done with the fourth, an English class.
“He’s got to do some reading when we get home,” Marvin said at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday after an intense, hour-long workout with Montgomery and a trainer. “I think he’ll be done with the class around the end of [May], first of June. Just gotta pass it. The other grades are in.”
Hagans has been juggling basketball and his regular high school classes, which are still in session, with his extra online work.
“It’s been a lot. It’s crazy. I work on it after school, before school,” he said. On days Hagans feels overwhelmed, he thinks of Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas to play four exhibition games in August. “I’m trying to get there.”
Marvin believes Ashton’s biggest relief upon completing his final online course will be “getting me off his back.” The son interjected: “I get a text message every two seconds.”
But the father knows how important it will be to get to Lexington and start connecting with his teammates. There is a loaded incoming freshman class and potentially a strong core of returning players — the ingredients of John Calipari’s best teams at Kentucky. And Hagans would likely be running the show.
“He needs to get there early to gel and get everything right,” Marvin Hagans said. “I tell him, ‘I know you’re tired. I know you’re frustrated. I know you’re tired of hearing me, hearing your mom. I know you might not like what we’re saying now, but you’ll thank us later.’ He’s just got to keep working. I tell him, ‘Push through it, push through it. Push, push, push.’ ”
Hagans said he chose the Wildcats because John Calipari and the UK staff remind him of his father — relentless, demanding, vowing to squeeze every last drop of potential out of his spring-loaded body.
“When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote down some goals I wanted to achieve in high school and this year I got them: Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Georgia Player of the Year,” Hagans said. “So now it’s time to make some new goals. Probably to try to get SEC Player of the Year and lead my team to a national championship.”
But wasn’t McDonald’s All-American on his list? That will be out the window if he reclassifies.
“Tell him what you told me,” Marvin Hagans said.
“Nah,” Ashton Hagans said, “I really couldn’t care less about that. I’m trying to get to the league.”
“He said, ‘Dad, half of them [McDonald’s All-Americans] don’t make it anyway,’ ” Marvin added, nodding and smiling.
So there Hagans was late Tuesday night, in a practice gym at Montgomery’s high school, running pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop drills — the hyper-athletic point guard lofting perfect lobs to the 6-foot-10 forward.
They worked out with two trainers until both were doubled over and soaked with sweat, then posed for a photo together, coincidentally standing on a wildcat logo with “Wildcats Basketball” (Wheeler High School’s mascot) on the wall behind them. It was a sneak preview.
“I saw the players they had coming in this year and I was talking to my dad,” Hagans said. “I told him, ‘I would love to play with each one of them guys.’ ”
So be on the lookout. He’s coming. He’s coming soon.
* EDITOR’S NOTE: SEC Country traveled to Georgia this week to spend time with both Montgomery and Hagans and profile both future Wildcats. We’ll roll out a series of stories and videos this week to help you get to know them better. Stay tuned.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) May 23, 2018