LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans will enter the NBA draft and forego his final two seasons of eligibility.

He said Sunday the “time is now” to pursue his dream of playing professionally.

The 6-foot-3 Hagans was named Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year as a freshman and became one of the country’s best point guards this past season. However, his time at Kentucky ended in controversy as he argued with forward Nick Richards and coach John Calipari and reportedly refused to re-enter in the second half of a home loss to Tennessee. Calipari downplayed the incident afterward.

Hagans then requested time away from the team for personal reasons and did not travel to the season finale at Florida. He was expected to return for the SEC tournament in Nashville, but that event and the NCAA tournament were canceled last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hagans said in a statement he was disappointed not to be able to pursue a national title but added that he understands why.

“It’s time for me to live out my lifelong dream and declare for the NBA draft,” Hagans said. “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.”

He also thanked coaches, teammates and fans and added, “the last two years have been some of the best of my life.”

Hagans was born and raised in Georgia. He had 351 assists at Kentucky – ranking 12th in school history – and 119 steals. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals last season.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Texas moved quickly to hire a new women’s basketball coach, luring Vic Schaefer away from powerhouse Mississippi State.

The move comes just two days after Texas dismissed Karen Aston, who had only one losing season in her eight-year tenure and led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16 or farther four times. Aston had reached the end of her contract and it was not renewed.

Schaefer will inherit a program that went 19-11 this season but is losing four of its top six scorers.

Schaefer, 59, was 221-62 games at Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs lost in the NCAA championship game in 2017 and 2018. Mississippi State was 27-6 and ranked No. 9 before this season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He led Mississippi State to one of the greatest upsets in women’s basketball history when the Bulldgos beat UConn in the Final Four in 2017, ending the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak.

Schaefer was set to make $1.65 million at Mississippi State next season. Details of his Texas contract, which will have to be approved by the school’s Board of Regents, were not immediately released.

Schaefer will be the first male coach to lead the Longhorns since Rodney Page in the 1970s when the program was first elevated to varsity status.

Aston appeared to have the program back among the national elite when the Longhorns went deep into the NCAA tournament each year from 2015-18. But Texas couldn’t break Baylor’s stranglehold on the Big 12 and got knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the first round in 2019.

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