ATHENS — Patrick Ewing is swooping in to Newton High School this week. So are other coaches at big-time basketball programs. Their target, newly available to programs besides Georgia: 5-star point guard Ashton Hagans.
For two months, Hagans was the jewel of Georgia’s future recruiting classes, the highest-rated commitment ever garnered by Mark Fox. That all changed Monday, when Hagans withdrew his commitment.
But Hagans has not wavered from wanting to play for Mark Fox or Georgia, according to multiple people, some who spoke on the record and some who spoke off it. Chris Williams, his AAU coach, confirmed that the de-commitment is a reaction to the uncertainty over whether Fox will be at Georgia beyond this season.
“That’s it, yes. Fox and [assistant coach Jonas] Hayes did a great job recruiting Ashton. Nothing more, nothing less,” Williams said. “Not ruling UGA out, just decided to open the recruitment back up at this time.”
It appears it’s not based on any insider knowledge about Fox’s future. Williams said neither he nor Hagans’ family had any information to indicate that Fox would not return. And multiple people within the Georgia program said they had not been told anything. Williams did not want to elaborate on why they announced a de-commitment this week rather than wait until the end of the season.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has not addressed the question of Fox’s future. McGarity did not immediately return an email requesting comment Tuesday, and during the weekend, while praising Fox’s integrity in the face of the national recruiting scandal, McGarity did not answer a question about Fox’s future going forward.
Hagans himself is not speaking publicly, according to his father, Marvin Hagans, who also declined comment for this story. He referred public comment to Williams, the coach of Game Elite.
Williams listed the schools that have contacted him since Monday: Georgetown, Marquette, Florida, Alabama, Temple, Xavier, Wake Forest, Boston College, Providence and Ohio State.
“Plus more,” Williams said.
Hagans’ high school team, Newton (26-3), is one of the best in the country. It has a home playoff game on Wednesday night against Wheeler High School. It’s the quarterfinals of the Georgia Class 7A tournament, and Newton is the No. 1 seed.
There is a lot that’s unknown about Hagans — including when he will arrive: 2018 or 2019? He’s still officially listed as a 2019 recruit but has been considering whether to reclassify — a term for graduating a year early. Hagans’ camp hasn’t been willing to officially confirm his arrival date yet.
“Ashton is currently a 2019 player focused on being the best in that class,” Williams said.
Here’s what is known: Hagans is a very good player and would be an immense help to Georgia whenever he arrives. If he arrives.
“He’s a special talent,” said Dan McDonald, a basketball recruiting writer for Rivals and the basketball program coordinator at LakePoint Sports. “He’s the more traditional point guard in that he’s more of a pass-first player, as opposed to the scoring point guard that is becoming more common. He’s plenty capable as a scorer too, but his unselfishness makes him really easy to play with and makes others want to play with him.”
That includes Elias King, a high school junior and 4-star prospect who committed to Georgia very soon after Hagans. So far, there have been no indications of King wavering, but that could change, especially if Fox isn’t retained.
Hagans is also a good defensive player, and even a good rebounder, according to McDonald.
“He would have a huge impact at UGA if he decides to come back into the fold, and would make the other players on the roster better immediately,” McDonald said.
The question is whether that will happen anymore.
Williams was asked if, should UGA announce that Fox is being retained, whether Hagans would re-commit.
“It’s not out of the question whatsoever,” he said.