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Coaches Tab Three Wildcats to Preseason All-SEC Teams

E.J. Montgomery - photo by Brendon D. Miller - Bluegrass Sports Nation

Hagans named to first team, Montgomery and Maxey on second team

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Already tabbed preseason All-Southeastern Conference by the league’s media, Kentucky men’s basketball’s Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey and EJ Montgomery were named preseason All-SEC players by the league’s coaches as well.

The coaches’ preseason All-SEC teams consist of a minimum of eight players on each squad, voted on by the SEC head coaches. No ties were broken and no predicted order of finish was made. The media picked UK to win the league’s regular-season title for a 49th time.

All 14 schools are represented on the two teams with Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee all having two or more selections each. In all, 20 different players received votes for the coaches’ teams.

Kentucky has featured at least one player on the final All-SEC First Team since the 2006-07 season.

Hagans was named to the first team alongside Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., Florida’s Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LSU’s Skylar Mays, Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree, Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry, and South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson. Blackshear, Edwards, Tyree and Perry all also joined media’s first team, which was released in October.

Montgomery and Maxey were joined on the second team by Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, Auburn’s Austin Wiley, LSU’s Javonte Smart, Ole Miss’ Devontae Shuler, Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon Jr., Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden and Lamonté Turner, Texas A&M’s Savion Flagg, and Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith. UK’s duo was also joined by Joe and Turner on the media’s second-team selections.

Hagans shared the coaches’ 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year award after inducing 61 steals during his freshman campaign and is considered one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball. He is also UK’s leading returning scorer at 7.7 points per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week award winner, was named to the Athletic’s All-Glue Team and was a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist.

The Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list candidate (Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s top point guard) started in 30 of 37 games a season ago and tied Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the third-most steals in program history. Included in that was a UK single-game record of eight swipes in a win over North Carolina in December, which matched Rajon Rondo and Wayne Turner’s output. He also dished out 160 assists on the season, ranked the fifth most by a UK freshman in school history. That mark includes an SEC Tournament-record 12 assists in the semifinals against Tennessee.

The Cartersville, Georgia, native scored in double figures in 13 games and recorded a career-high 23 points in a win at Georgia in his return to his hometown state. He totaled 29 games with three or more assists and had 10 games with three or more steals. In UK’s two exhibition games, he averaged 10.5 points and a team-high 9.5 assists per game.

Maxey begins his freshman campaign with the Wildcats as the No. 10 overall prospect by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. He was a Naismith High School Boys’ 2019 All-America Second Team selection. As a senior at South Garland High School, he averaged 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

The 6-foot-3 guard was tabbed Texas Mr. Basketball and was the Dallas-Fort Worth Area Player of the Year. He was a two-time All-State selection and was a 2019 McDonald’s All American. His success stretches beyond high school basketball as he also won a gold medal as a member of the U18 USA Team.

In addition to his preseason All-SEC honors, Maxey made NBC Sports’ preseason All-America Third Team, was an Associated Press preseason All-America Honorable Mention selection and is on the Jerry West Award watch list for the Naismith Hall of Fame’s top shooting guard. He’s lived up to the preseason billing with an average of 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game in Kentucky’s two exhibition games.

Earlier Monday, Maxey and Montgomery were named to the preseason Naismith Trophy watch list as Atlanta Tipoff Club national player of the year candidates. Maxey is also on the watch list for the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I Player of the Year award.

Montgomery elected to return for his sophomore season after considering a jump to the pro ranks following positive feedback from the NBA. He appeared in all 37 games for the Wildcats during his freshman season, including making 10 starts. He started in nine of UK’s final 11 games and the Wildcats were 9-1 during that stretch.

The Florida native is UK’s leading returning rebounder at 4.1 boards per game. He also averaged 3.8 points per game and shot with a 48% rate from the field. Montgomery’s 38 blocks ranked third on the team and led the team in the category in 14 games. His best game of the season came with career highs in points (11) and rebounds (13) in a win over South Carolina. He also snared 11 boards in his NCAA Tournament debut against Abilene Christian. 

Montgomery posted 6.5 points, 4.5 boards and 1.5 blocks per game in UK’s two exhibition games. He’s on the Karl Malone Award preseason watch list for the Naismith Hall of Fame’s best power forward.

The Wildcats open the regular season in New York for the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday. They will face Michigan State at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN in a matchup of the two top-ranked teams in the country, according to the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll.

It will mark just the second time in NCAA Division I history the AP No. 1 and No. 2 teams played in their respective openers, according to STATS. No. 1 Indiana defeated No. 2 UCLA in November 1975.

Tuesday’s matchup will be the ninth 1-2 matchup the Wildcats have been a part of. They’re 5-3 all-time in such games.  

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