Kentucky Wildcats fans have waited many years to hear these five words.
DJ Wagner is a Wildcat.
The announcement made Monday on ESPN’s social media page marks the culmination of a long, wild ride that managed to hold the attention of the masses for seemingly an eternity.
Dajuan ‘DJ’ Wagner’s recruitment will go down in infamy and without a doubt be discussed for decades to come for the various storylines that it produced.
After more twists and turns than a Martin Scorsese movie, the decision was finally made public as the early signing period is draws to a close.
Kentucky has officially landed arguably the top player in the class of 2023.
Breaking: DJ Wagner tells @PaulBiancardi he has committed to the University of Kentucky.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 14, 2022
Wagner is the No. 1 overall prospect in the ESPN 100 for the class of 2023. @SportsCenterNEXT pic.twitter.com/os4D7J8DUB
A sight of relief? A flex moment? All of the above?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a singular emotion now that DJ Wagner has finally publicly pledged his allegiance to John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Wagner’s commitment had always been Calipari’s to lose. Despite unusual circumstances along the way the plan remained for him to end up in Lexington from start to finish.
For college basketball fans living in the Bluegrass state following Wagner’s recruitment was a whirlwind journey full of twists and turns. The chaos was set in motion soon after Kenny Payne accepted the vacant head coaching position at the University of Louisville on March 18th.
The legacy aspect of Wagner’s family ties to UL and Kenny Payne’s track-record for developing NBA talent caused a few sway predictions away from Kentucky and to the Cards.
Ultimately, John Calipari gets his guy while also delivering an immediate victory on the recruiting trail against his longtime assistant, Kenny Payne.
Now that DJ Wagner has made it known where he’s going to play next year the focus can shift back to his incredible talent and ability to score the basketball.
Obviously when your dad is a former NBA player who ended his career with a reputation of being one of the best pure scorers to play the game, you start off your high school career with some lofty expectations.
DJ Wagner has embraced all of the extra pressure and performed well on both the New Jersey high school basketball and national AAU scene.
Back in June, Wagner and his then highly-coveted teammate and now UK commit, Aaron Bradshaw, came to Louisville for a stop on Nike EYBL’s circuit.
I was in attendance for one of two games and the buzz from Kentucky and Louisville fans packed around the court was palpable.
Wagner impressed me with what I believe to be his best quality as a player and that’s his feel for the game.
When he has the ball, it’s on a string responding to his every command. The 6-foot-3 combo-guard can effortlessly score at all three levels. He’s a confident shooter from anywhere on the floor and isn’t afraid to to take the ball to the rack.
Wagner has some sneaky athleticism and surprised me with his vertical leaping ability during the pregame warm-up dunk line.
Standing right at about that 6 foot 3 inch mark he’s definitely not undersized but also has to get crafty to finish around, or sometimes up and over lengthy defenders.
The Bleacher Report’s Johnathan Wasserman wrote this about Wagner in February of 2021 after watching him suit up for his high school team.
[Playmaking is another key area for scouts to monitor. His identity is still built around scoring but not necessarily creating for others. Last season, he averaged 22.0 points and 3.8 assists per game. But he does show encouraging passing IQ as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and I’d expect him to develop enough teammate creation skill to look like a full-time point guard by his draft year in 2024.]
Wagner is the two-time winner of the New Jersey Gatorade Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year for the state of New Jersey. He won the award in 2021, 2022 and his obviously a front-runner to three-peat for the award.
Last year, he averaged just under 20 points per game as a junior for Camden High School. But more importantly, Wagner led his team to their first state championship in over 20 years.
He’s poised for a major senior year before making his way to Lexington to join what is now an insanely loaded class of 2023.
For many folks, just finally putting this recruitment to bed is a win in itself.
There’s been a lot of crazy situations over the years but following along with this DJ Wagner saga will go down as one of the more memorable storylines of the Calipari era.
Just how memorable will depend on what exactly the highly sought after legacy recruit does between the lines once the ball is tipped up.
Without a doubt DJ Wagner and his star-studded fellow recruits are going to be must-see TV during their time as Wildcats.
After Wagner’s commitment was announced here is what Kentucky’s class of 2023 looks like using 247’s national composite rankings.
- #1 DJ Wagner
- #2 Justin Edwards
- #6Aaron Bradshaw
- #9Robert Dillingham
- #29 Reed Sheppard