Written by UK staff
BOSTON – Fresh off helping lead the Kentucky men’s basketball team to a season-opening win over No. 1/1 Michigan State on Tuesday, sophomore guard Ashton Hagans added to his growing preseason résumé with Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award’s watch list honors.
Hagans is one of four players from the Southeastern Conference among the Olson Award’s preseason watch list comprised of 40 players nationally.
The Lute Olson Award is named in honor of Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson, who won 776 games in 34 seasons. It began being awarded annually in 2010. The 2019-20 Lute Olson Award will be announced in Atlanta, the site of the 2020 Final Four, in April.
Hagans was instrumental in helping lead Kentucky to a win Tuesday over the Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team in Michigan State with hard-nose defense and a veteran presence in the backcourt. He recorded 11 points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in his sophomore debut.
Last season, he shared SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors after inducing 61 steals during his freshman campaign, and is considered one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball. Hagans is also UK’s leading returning scorer at 7.7 points per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week award winner, was named to the Athletic’s All-Glue Team and was a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist. He’s a preseason All-SEC First Team selection by both the league’s media and coaches.
The Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list candidate (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s top point guard) started in 30 of 37 games a season ago and tied Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the third-most steals in program history. Included in that was a UK single-game record of eight swipes in a win over North Carolina in December, which matched Rajon Rondo and Wayne Turner’s output. Hagans also dished out 160 assists on the season, ranked the fifth most by a UK freshman in school history. That mark includes an SEC Tournament-record 12 assists in the semifinals against Tennessee.
Hagans scored in double figures in 13 games and recorded a career-high 23 points in a win at Georgia in his return to his hometown state last season. He totaled 29 games with three or more assists and had 10 games with three or more steals. In UK’s two exhibition games, he averaged 10.5 points and a team-high 9.5 assists per game.
The Wildcats return to action on Friday with an instate matchup against Eastern Kentucky. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. and the game will air live on SEC Network.