Ashton Hagans survives hostility, emerges a superstar


Kentucky freshman guard Ashton Hagans high-fives sophomore forward PJ Washingtonduring the game against Louisville on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won with a final score of 71-58. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Coming home from college, for me at least, is a relaxing experience. Ashton Hagans’ trip back home to Georgia seemed a little more stressful than watching Bird Box with my family.

Upon entering Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, less than an hour drive from his hometown of Covington, Hagans was greeted with only hostility on Tuesday night.

According to Michael Hebert of Georgia’s student paper, The Red and Black, Hagans was booed during pregame warmups and called a traitor. This certainly carried over into the sold-out arena, as boos and harsh words filled the Coliseum. As he stood at the free throw line in the first half, a steady chant of “traitor, traitor” rang out as Hagans made one of the two foul shots.

“A lot of fans were excited about Hagans potentially being a Bulldog,” Hebert told the Kernel over Twitter. “I’m sure they were looking forward to giving him a lot of hell in this game tonight.”

Originally, Hagans was going to be wearing the red jerseys donned by the Bulldogs. When Mark Fox was the coach there, Hagans had committed to go to school in Athens as a Bulldog. Upon Fox’s firing, however, Hagans decommitted. He then set his sights on Kentucky and is having a breakout year for the Wildcats after graduating high school a year early.

So, Georgia fans were a bit upset.

Not only was the crowd against him, his teammates weren’t providing much help on the stat sheet to survive the crowd. UK’s leading scorer, Keldon Johnson, finished the game with zero points. UK’s leading scorer at the end of each season has never put up zero points before Johnson.

Reid Travis had difficulty scoring for the Cats again, putting up just six points on 3-7 shooting in the post. He didn’t make any free throws.

The 19-year-old lead guard didn’t hiccup in the face of the hostility, however. Instead, after about eight minutes of nervousness and adjustments, Hagans took off.

“It rattled him early and it inspired him later,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “But early on, I had to get him out. He missed a couple layups, was rushing a little bit and then he settled in and played the way he needs to play for him and us.”

He finished the game with 23 points (a career high), four steals, four assists and five rebounds with only one foul and one turnover in UK’s 69-49 victory. His homecoming game was his best offensive night this season, and he added his usual defensive intensity to notch his sixth straight game with at least three steals.

Saturday’s game won’t be a homecoming for Hagans, but it’ll certainly be hostile as they’ll take on their first ranked opponent since North Carolina at No. 14 Auburn.