A month ago, Ashton Hagans was preparing to play in the 16U division of Nike's EYBL circuit. The competition there is certainly good, but 17U teams take priority for most scouts and media, as 16U teams often play in smaller, more remote venues.
Hagans's national breakout, it seemed, would have to wait until at least July.
Then, just a week before the first live session, Hagans's team switched to adidas's 17U circuit and became Game Elite 2019. The change has pit Hagans and his teammates against the best players adidas has to offer - some of the best in the country.
And through two weekends, Hagans, a standout at Covington (Ga.) Newton High School who will enroll at Oak Hill Academy next season, has seized his new-found opportunity. His play, while leading a team featuring 2019 UNC targets Josh Nickelberry and Christian Brown, has drawn rave reviews.
"At 6-foot-3, Hagans has good size for a young point guard prospect," said Evan Daniels, Scout's National Recruiting Director. "He's strong, tough and has an impressive feel for the game, especially considering his age. He has good vision and is a set up man first."
Added Chris Williams, his coach with Game Elite 2019: "He's our leader, our captain and he's very unselfish. He gets everyone involved and what we really like is that he locks up on defense full court. He's also very aggressive and plays with physicality because of how he's built. He's a big-bodied guard who take a hit if there is no foul called, but also finish through contact. I'd say he's a pass-first guard, and he's getting good at getting Josh (Nickelberry) and Christian (Brown) the ball in the spots they like it."
Hagans already holds offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Tennessee. He's also receiving interest from early every school in the ACC and SEC, including North Carolina.
Roy Williams watched Hagans pour in a triple-double at the adidas event in Dallas last weekend. Two days later, Hagans's AAU coach Chris Williams heard from the Tar Heel staff.
"They were raving about how much they love him," said Chris Williams. "They kept using that phrase 'love him.' They said he's a priority guy for them in his class and how they wanted to continue to watch him."
Roy Williams, assistants Steve Robinson and Hubert Davis, as well as Brad Frederick (who has been out on the road while UNC officially finalizes an assistant to replace C.B. McGrath) took in at least one Game Elite 2019 game this weekend.
Hagans has taken note.
"I heard Coach Roy (Williams) is a good coach and that he really cares about his players," said Hagans. "They won the national championship this year. I also heard he doesn't really offer kids outside of the state unless he really likes them and has a good relationship with them. I know Brandon Robinson goes there, he's from Georgia. When I was in ninth grade, my high school team beat his in the state playoffs."
This is the first spring playing together for Nickelberry and Hagans. In just a short amount of time, the future Oak Hill teammates have become inseparable.
"I'm trying to build more chemistry with him and I think he's going to be my roommate when we get up there," he explained. "Now, we're basically like best friends. I think getting to know my teammates better helps on the court. I love getting my teammates involved and being a leader on the court. Making sure everyone gets the shot they want is important to me."
Hagans's signature game of the April evaluation period came this past Saturday against Team BBC. He put up 22 points (8-10 FG, 1-3 3pt), 11 assists, 7 rebounds and committed just two turnovers in Game Elite's four-point win. And he did it against one of the best point guards in the country.
"Hagans also showed his competitive side, when matched up at the adidas Gauntlet with Immanuel Quickely," said Daniels. "He was aggressive and played with urgency and determination. Hagans will need to continue to improve his jump shot, but he has a lot of upside and is in the conversation for best point guard in the 2019 class."