2020 NBA Draft: Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans declares, John Calipari says guard is ‘ready’

One of the nation’s top perimeter defenders and a two-year starter for Kentucky is declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft. Ashton Hagans made the announcement Sunday, calling the opportunity to enter the draft a “lifelong dream.”

“It’s been my No. 1 goal since I first picked up a ball to take this step and I know my time is now,” Hagans wrote in a message posted to Twitter. “It’s so hard for me to say goodbye to the best fans in the world, because these last two years have been some of the best years of my life.”

Hagans, a 6-foot-3 guard, is ranked 34th on the latest CBS Sports NBA Draft Big Board after starting 29 games for the Wildcats as a sophomore and averaging 11.5 points per game over the season.

But scoring is not Hagans’ speciality. The Cartersville, Georgia, native was one of four finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of The Year after averaging 1.9 steals per game just a season after winning SEC Defensive Player of The Year as a freshman. Hagans also grew as a distributor in the 2019-20 campaign as he took hold of the point guard position and averaged 6.4 assists along with an unsavory 3.4 turnovers per game.

Kentucky coach John Calipari wrote on Twitter that Hagans is “ready” for this.

“From where he was when he got here two seasons ago to where is now isn’t even close,” Calipari wrote. “He’s a completely different player and he’s built his skills and his confidence to take that next step.”

Of the trio of guards that led the Wildcats to a dominant 15-3 campaign in the SEC, Hagans is the first to declare for the draft. Fellow sophomore Immanuel Quickley and freshman Tyrese Maxey could follow. Post players Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery are also facing decisions about whether to return to Kentucky or enter the draft. Freshman guard Johnny Juzang also announced recently that he will transfer after playing a reserve role in the 2019-20 season.

The Wildcats are set to welcome a six-man 2020 recruiting class consisting entirely of prospects ranked in the top-50 of the 247Sports rankings to the program this year to help replenish the roster.