Upon Kenny Payne being hired as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program, rumors immediately surfaced that Payne would hire his friend and former teammate, Milt Wagner, to his staff.
However, when Payne finalized his coaching staff in late April, Wagner’s name was not listed, and most assumed that was no longer a possibility.
On Tuesday morning, it has been announced and confirmed that Milt Wagner has joined the Louisville staff in a hybrid capacity, as director of player development and alumni relations.
As further evidence, Wagner is already listed on the University’s staff directory.
How does this affect the Kentucky Wildcats?
Well, Milt just happens to be the grandfather of DJ Wagner, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2023, who was long considered to be a future Wildcat until Payne’s hiring. This hire is of significant recruiting importance and potentially gives an advantage to Louisville.
With that said, NCAA bylaw 11.4.2 states: In men’s basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (either on a salaried or a volunteer basis) or enter into a contract for future employment with an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position or in a strength and conditioning staff position.
So, how is Louisville able to continue to recruit DJ Wagner?
In the case of this hire, Wagner is not considered to be a part of the athletic department, but rather holds a ‘university’ position. Having said that, I am not sure how the director of player development is not a position within the athletic department.
Milt’s hiring does not pencil in DJ as a Cardinal, but it certainly complicates things. Having your grandfather as director of player development must be an intriguing option.
Despite this, Kentucky remains confident and has two of the closest connections to DJ in his father, Dajuan, who played under John Calipari at Memphis, and stepbrother, UK walk-on Kareem Watkins, who DJ has called his “best friend” and “blood brother”.
DJ has yet to announce a timeline for a decision, but with his senior season upcoming, more information on his decision should come later this year.