No. 1-ranked hire Wagner picks Kentucky

3:02 PM ET Jeff Borzello Close ESPN Staff Author

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Signed up with ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.Paul Biancardi
  • Close Basketball Recruiting

    • National Recruiting Director for
    • 18 years of coaching experience at Department I level
    • Previous Horizon League coach of the year at Wright State
  • D.J. Wagner, the No. 1-ranked high school senior, announced his commitment to Kentucky males’s basketball Monday, choosing the Wildcats over Louisville.Wagner’s commitment offers John Calipari and Kentucky the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. If the Wildcats complete the cycle at the top– and Wagner’s promise likely seals that– it will be the seventh time considering that Calipari took over in Lexington that Kentucky has the top-ranked recruiting class. Wagner is also the fourth No. 1 hire to devote to the Wildcats under Calipari, following Shaedon Sharpe, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis.

    “This was a very difficult choice that I went back-and-forth with for a long time. That’s why it took so long,” Wagner informed ESPN. “I’m real comfortable with my choice. Coach John Calipari was always simple and honest with me. He stated he would be with me up until the wheels fall off the automobile either way. Which implied a lot to me. When I enjoyed him coach I might feel the strength, how he disciplines his team and how he simplifies.”

    “The environment at Kentucky is unbelievable,” he added. “I have actually existed a number of times and it’s what I’m most comfortable with.”

    Wagner was the subject of an intense recruiting fight in between in-state competitors Kentucky and Louisville, with strong familial ties to both programs. Calipari coached Wagner’s dad, Dajuan, at Memphis, and first-year Louisville coach Kenny Payne played with Wagner’s grandfather, Milt, on Louisville’s 1986 national championship team.In Might, Payne employed Milt Wagner as the program’s director of player development and alumni relationship– a similar move to when Calipari employed Milt at Memphis in 2000. Wagner’s stepbrother, Kareem Watkins, is a walk-on at Kentucky.

    “My older brother Kareem is on the team,” he said. “That made a huge difference. I look up to him; we are really close.

    “My grandfather was always my grandpa throughout the process. He never ever attempted to recruit me. He constantly said what’s finest for me. He’s been a coach in my life and he’s assisted develop me into the player and individual that I am. He will always be family initially. Absolutely nothing however love for him.”

    D.J. Wagner has been thought about the best possibility in the 2023 class considering that early in his high school profession. Daniel Fritz

    A 6-foot-3 guard from Camden High School (New Jersey), Wagner has actually been considered the best possibility in the 2023 class given that early in his high school profession. He averaged 18.8 points and 4.9 helps on the Nike EYBL circuit with the NJ Scholars grassroots program last spring and summer season, including nine 20-point efforts in 18 games. As a high school junior last season, Wagner averaged 19.8 points and led Camden to a New Jersey state championship.Wagner also helped lead U.S.A.

    Basketball to a gold medal at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Championships, beginning all seven games and balancing 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists.He brings a real competitive spirit to the game; winning

    is paramount to Wagner. He went to U.S.A. Basketball with the mindset of winning a gold medal. He’s at his finest outdoors court, playing in shift. He can rebound defensively and after that push the ball up the floor along with anybody in the class. He puts a great deal of pressure on the defense with his speed to rating and his vision to make the help. He’s a scoring point player in the mold of Cleveland Cavaliers star Darius Garland.When the game slows down in the halfcourt, Wagner’s enhancement from the perimeter has actually been a possession.

    He’s learning how to manage in pick-and-rolls and he’s always worked as a downhill penetrator, getting into the paint and finishing with top-level body control. He’s decisive once he gets into the paint, knowing when to pull-up, jump-stop and use his floater or kick out to an open teammate for a shot. Defensively, he works when securing on the ball and likewise has excellent anticipation off the ball.Wagner signs up with a Kentucky class that now includes 4 of the leading eight potential customers in the 2023 class, with Justin Edwards(No. 2), Aaron Bradshaw (No. 5)and Robert Dillingham(No. 8)already in the fold. The Wildcats also signed No. 26-ranked prospect Reed Sheppard.This marks only the third time in the last 10 years where one school has actually landed four top-10 potential customers in the very same class: Kentucky in 2013, which had five of the leading 9, and Duke in 2017.”I

    ‘m coming there to win,”Wagner stated. “Winning precedes with me and I want to help Kentucky win as much as possible.”

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