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The Minnesota Timberwolves turned to an undrafted player for one of their two-way contracts, signing former Kentucky standout Ashton Hagans.
While there’s some uncertainty surrounding a G League season, this is also the era of COVID-19 and there might be a need for players, especially if one or more Wolves have to be quarantined.
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Even if not, Minnesota got a lot out of its players on two-way deals last season. Kelan Martin played in 31 games with four starts and averaged 16.0 minutes. Jordan McLaughlin played in 30 contests with two starts and averaged 19.7 minutes.
Perhaps Hagans gets a similar opportunity in 2020-21? Let’s learn more about Minnesota’s latest guard addition.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard went to Newton High School in Covington, Ga. As a junior he averaged 20.2 points, 10.7 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 steals and was named Mr. Basketball in Georgia as well as the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year.
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Listed as a top-20 national recruit (as high as No. 12) by 247 Sports, ESPN and Rivals, Hagan reclassified to the class of 2018 and graduated early.
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Originally committed to Georgia, Hagans switched and enrolled early at Kentucky.
As a freshman, he played in 37 games with 30 starts and averaged 7.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
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In 2019-20, Hagans played in 30 games with 29 starts, averaging 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He missed Kentucky’s season finale for personal reasons, which head coach John Calipari late said was to get his “mind and body right.”
Hagans was tabbed the conference’s co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19 and named to the SEC’s All-Defensive team the following year.
This past April, Hagans decided to forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA draft, where he ended up not being selected.
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“Ashton is ready for this,” Calipari said in a press release announcing Hagans’ departure. “From where he was when he got here two seasons ago to where he is now isn’t even close. He’s a completely different player and he’s built his skills and his confidence to take that next step.
“We know what Ashton can do to change the game defensively and how much better he got offensively, but what’s going to separate him is his competitiveness. That kid is a winner. His competitive spirit drives him and is why I love him. If I’m going to battle, I’m taking Ashton.”
MINNEAPOLIS – Former Kentucky men’s basketball point guard Ashton Hagans’ deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves became official Saturday.
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Hagans, one of the best on-ball defenders in school history, has signed a two-way contract. Per Minnesota team policy, the terms of the agreement were not released.
Hagans was one of five underclassmen from the 2019-20 team to declare for the NBA Draft. Three of them – Tyrese Maxey (No. 21 overall to Philadelphia), Immanuel Quickley (No. 27 to New York via a trade with Oklahoma City) and Nick Richards (No. 42 to Charlotte after a trade with New Orleans) – were drafted earlier this month. Two other Wildcats, EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina, have also reportedly signed free-agent deals, but the league has not officially confirmed the signings.
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With a two-way contract, Hagans will get a great opportunity to establish a role with the Timberwolves. NBA teams may have up to two players – 17 total players on a roster – under NBA two-way contracts who will spend the bulk of the season in the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA team. Two-way players are paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league. Only players in their fourth NBA season or earlier can sign two-way contracts, which can be for either one or two seasons.
Hagans enjoyed a memorable two-year career at UK that saw him evolve from a defensive menace to one of the best point guards in the country.
The 6-foot-3 Georgia native was the consummate point guard in his sophomore season, doing a little bit of everything to affect the game. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while grabbing the leadership reins of a talented but young team that won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title.
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Hagans played in 67 career games for Kentucky with 59 starts. After starting off his career as a reserve, he broke through with an unforgettable defensive performance vs. North Carolina in December 2018. Hagans tied the single-game school record with eight steals while shutting down eventual NBA Draft first-round pick Coby White in the victory.
That performance sparked Hagans’ confidence offensively as well, as he would go on to score in double figures in 13 of the final 26 games to end his freshman campaign.
Hagans continued his evolution last season, boasting double-figure scoring in 20 games in 2019-20, including a career-high 26-point performance in the win over Utah Valley. He dished out three or more assists in every game he played last season and recorded five or more in 22 outings, including a career-high-tying 12 vs. UAB. His streak of 10 games with six or more assists midway through the season was the best run by a Wildcat since Roger Harden dished six or more in 12 straight in 1986.
With 351 career dimes, Hagans ranks 12th in program history in assists. His 5.24 career assist average ranks fourth in the school record book. Hagans’ assist average last season ranked 16th in the country and tops in the league.
Hagans was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and was once again UK’s best on-ball defender last season with a team-high 58 steals. He made the SEC All-Defensive Team again in 2020 and was one of four finalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.
With 119 swipes in 67 career games, Hagans averaged 1.776 steals per game for his career. That rate is third all-time in program history, trailing only Rajon Rondo and Derek Anderson.
According to HoopsHype: “During the shortened 2020/21 season, two-way deals will work a little differently than usual. Rather than being limited to spending 45 days with their NBA teams, two-way players will be eligible to be active for up to 50 of their team’s 72 NBA games. And instead of having their salaries by how many days they spend in the NBA, they’ll receive flat salaries of $449,155.”
Hagans might have attended high school in Covington, but he actually lived in Cartersville, Ga., until he was 12. Before moving, he played youth football with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the two remain friends.
Hagans played a lot of football before concentrating on basketball. That sport is in his blood as his cousin is former Auburn and NFL running back Ronnie Brown. Of course, another cousin is Trey Thompkins, who played basketball at Georgia, in the NBA and overseas.
Since he played football so much as a youth, he followed the NFL more than the NBA. His favorite team was the Indianapolis Colts. But in basketball, his idol was former Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose (who also played for Calipari, although at Memphis).