An Angry Stranger Confronted Me About Ashton Hagans
A stranger grabbed me by the shoulder and shouted at me as I passed him on the street. I was startled. Older man, holding a rolled up magazine. Elastic waisted jeans. Brown cardigan sweater with a Michael Ray Richardson t-shirt peaking through underneath. I'm not sure why he'd singled me out about a high basketball prospect.
STRANGER: WHAT MAKES HIM SO SPECIAL?
He was still shouting, pointing his rolled up magazine in my face.
ME: Well… uh… he’s big.
The stranger abruptly cut me off. Hard boiled eggs on his breath.
STRANGER: HOW BIG?! As big as Magic?
ME: Magic? Is anybody as big as Magic?
STRANGER: Ben Simmons!
ME: Okay, he's not Magic or Ben Simmons, but he’s got good size. 6-foot-4 and about 185 pounds. Solid frame. He’s pretty athletic, too. Fast and bouncy.
STRANGER: Bouncy like who? John Wall or Derrick Rose? Trevon Duval?
I paused for a moment to contemplate his question.
ME: Ehh, I’d say a notch just below those guys. But attacks the rim. Loves to dunk on people.
STRANGER: Alright, alright, sounds like we’ve got one of those mixtape dudes that just likes to get downhill and dunk — can’t shoot the ball at all. Look at me! Look at me! You're watching: Ball. Is. Life. 50 million views! 80 million views, I’m famous! You can have him. I don’t have time for that shit.
I was impressed at how versed he was in online basketball culture.
ME: No, no, no, not the case at all. He seems like a pretty good kid. His mechanics aren’t bad. Got a little hitch in his shot from the line, but if he straightened his elbow it’d probably smooth out. He’ll probably make plenty of jumpers as he gets older. Not a liability.
STRANGER: Yeah, well I bet he doesn’t guard anybody. None of these millenials do!
He folded his arms. I could tell he was having a hard time not being skeptical.
ME: I mean, he does some things defensively that lots of high school kids do. Can get lazy at times.
ME: Maybe plays for steals a little too often. Wants badly to get up and down, so he gambles. He can move his feet, though. I’ve seen him do it, many times. He could be a great defender. He's got the tools.
STRANGER: Yeah, but a point guard should be a leader! You need an alpha male at that position! Not one of these snowflakes that wets themselves if the game’s tight. Who wants that person? No one. I’m getting furious just thinking about it.
ME: Relax, man. Ashton is a gamer. He brings a lot of intensity to his team.
I could tell the old man had an anger problem... at least when it came to the point guard position. I got brave and held my finger to his lips, in an attempt to shush him and sooth his rage. He quickly swatted it away and got even angrier. It was a poor decision on my part, looking back.
STRANGER: Who are these me-first point guards that are jacking a bunch of shots? They've mutilated the game! What do they think this is? Chino Hills, part 2? Think you're Steph Curry, do you?
He shifted his weight, adjusted his pants and leaned forward to make a point.
STRANGER: A point guard gets his ****ing teammates involved!
ME: I agree, man, but Ashton is great at keeping his guys involved. He gets in the lane almost at will, and I've gotta say — he's great at dumping the ball off to his teammates once he’s drawn a couple defenders. It’s one of his real strengths. He’s pass first most of the time.
STRANGER: Yeeeeaaaah, well, sounds like he might be decent! But I doubt it!
With that he swatted me on back of the head with his rolled up magazine and stomped off down the street, around the corner and out of my life, where he'd come from. I stood still for a moment, perplexed, as I watched him disappear. I’d never been confronted like that about a prospect.
I think about that angry old man often, and his ferocious, purist defense of what a point guard should be. There were so many more things I wanted to tell him, to give him an even picture of who Hagans is as a prospect.
I’d tell him that Hagans has good instincts on offense, and sees the floor well, but that his patience to execute in the halfcourt is still developing. That he will be forced to make more and more complex decisions in the pick and roll and that I think he's a smart enough player to really grow as an on-court leader.
I'd say he's fiery and that he talks an enormous amount of trash. I'd say that he's a winner. I'd say I expect big things from him.
Something tells me I'll see that angry old man again. I can only hope that I do.