High-level basketball is in the Wagner family DNA.
Milt Wagner led the Louisville Cardinals to the 1986 national championship. He played in the NBA for three years with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. As a member of the Lakers, he won an NBA championship in 1988.
Milt's son, Dajuan Wagner, was a McDonald's All-American who played under John Calipari at Memphis. Coach Cal revoked his scholarship after his freshman year to force him to enter the 2002 NBA Draft, where he was selected sixth-overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wagner's NBA career was short lived due to injuries and health problems, namely ulcerative colitis. He retired from professional basketball in 2007.
He's also the top prospect in the class of 2023, and he'll be playing his college basketball for the same coach as his dad.
D.J. Wagner is at his best driving downhill. He's an adept scorer, possessing the ability to finish with either hand equally. The point guard also has a nifty Euro step at his disposal. He drives to the bucket with strength and carries a reliable floater.
The Camden, New Jersey native's ball handling steers his game, however. He has an arsenal of moves that are complemented by explosive athleticism, and a 6-foot-10 wingspan allows him to quickly cover space and clog passing lanes on the defensive end.
The senior superstar plays with a quiet confidence. He lets his game do the talking, but doesn't shy away from a subtle flex after scoring. As for his shot, he has a nice outside stroke off the dribble and catch. However, he prefers to attack the rim.
Wagner has natural instinct in transition. He makes the smart basketball play, whether that is finding an open teammate or taking it to the cup himself.
In his junior season, Wagner averaged 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.2 steals per game while leading his team to a state championship. He's been named New Jersey's Gatorade Player of the Year the past two seasons as well.
D.J. Wagner Commits to Kentucky
Breaking: DJ Wagner tells @PaulBiancardi he has committed to the University of Kentucky.
Wagner is the No. 1 overall prospect in the ESPN 100 for the class of 2023. @SportsCenterNEXT pic.twitter.com/os4D7J8DUB
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 14, 2022
However, he narrowed his choices to Louisville and Kentucky partly due to the familial connection. Of course, he has a link to Kentucky because his father played for Calipari at Memphis. As for Louisville, head coach Kenny Payne played with Wagner's grandfather Milt in college. Payne also hired Milt as the Director of Player Development & Alumni Relations this past May.
Wagner ended his recruitment, however, when he committed to Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats, who were the favorites throughout his recruiting process.
"This was an extremely difficult decision that I went back-and-forth with for a long time. That's why it took so long," Wagner told ESPN. "I'm real comfortable with my decision. Coach John Calipari was always straightforward and honest with me. He said he would be with me until the wheels fall off the car either way. And that meant so much to me. When I watched him coach I could feel the intensity, how he disciplines his team and how he breaks it down."
Wagner's older step-brother Kareem Watkins is a walk-on at UK, too, which made the decision a little easier. The commitment of Wagner gives the Wildcats another star in their absolutely loaded 2023 recruiting class. Joining Wagner are fellow top-10 recruits Justin Edwards (No. 2), Aaron Bradshaw (No. 5) and Robert Dillingham (No. 8) and Reed Sheppard (No. 26).
As Wagner's basketball journey progresses, he'll look to lead Kentucky to a national championship before heading to the NBA. If (when) he makes the league, he'll be the first ever third-generation NBA player.
MORE: Before Declaring for the NBA Draft, Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe has Unfinished Business in March
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