DJ Wagner recruitment: Is Kentucky or Louisville the best fit for the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023?

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With high total prospect GG Jackson reclassifying from the 2023 to 2022 recruiting class, all eyes now flip to DJ Wagner — who was shortly elevated to the No. 1 recruit within the Class of 2023 within the 247Sports rankings — and his dramatic Bluegrass State recruiting battle. Will or not it’s Kentucky or Louisville that lands considered one of basketball’s brightest younger stars? 

The reply to that query might quickly be unveiled after a topsy-turvy recruitment course of that is seen wild swings in momentum for each packages. And whereas Wagner has not revealed a timeline for his determination publicly, rumors have for weeks swirled that one may come round Peach Jam — which simply concluded — or someday within the lead-up to the 2022-23 season.

Which suggests his determination may come at any time.

So which faculty has the sting? Which faculty ought to have the sting? There are a variety of issues at play from on-court match to off-court match, familial connections to, effectively, extra familial connections. Let’s evaluate how Wagner matches at each Kentucky and Louisville, his two almost definitely locations.

Kentucky

On-court match: John Calipari places the ball within the palms of its guards and lets them run the present. John Wall. Tyrese Maxey. Ashton Hagans. Tyler Ulis. For those who can facilitate as a creator and as a scorer — which Wagner can do — then UK will free you up. At Rupp Area, Wagner would doubtless flourish as a do-it-all guard who does his greatest harm creating his personal offense and stuffing the stat sheet as a scorer. 

Off-court match: Wagner has signed an NIL deal — already! — with Drake’s Nike sub-label NOCTA, doubtlessly paving the best way for him to rock the Kentucky superfan’s gear whereas taking part in for the Nike faculty. The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker talked about that some UK basketball of us might quickly be rocking some NOCTA gear quickly, too, which might by no means be a coincidence. It is also only a recruiting ploy, however both manner, I am submitting this away within the class of “attention-grabbing and probably noteworthy.”

Connections: John Calipari coached DJ’s father, Dajuan Wagner, at Memphis in the course of the 2001-2002 season. Dajuan Wagner went on to turn out to be the No. 6 choose within the 2002 NBA Draft. Milt Wagner, Wagner’s grandfather, served on Calipari’s employees at Memphis from 2000 by way of 2006 in basketball operations. Milt Wagner additionally went on to function an assistant on the employees at UTEP beneath Tony Barbee from 2006 by way of 2010 and adopted Barbee to Auburn, the place they coached from 2010 by way of 2014. Barbee later went on to serve on employees at Kentucky beneath Calipari from 2014 to 2021 earlier than taking the pinnacle teaching place at Central Michigan.  

Louisville

On-court match: Louisville would not but have an on-court id beneath new coach Kenny Payne. It is not possible to mission as we sit right here within the canine days of summer time as he is by no means been a head coach, however every part Payne has mentioned about what the system will appear to be suggests Wagner and his skills as a do-it-all guard could be correctly featured.

“For those who can play free-flowing, unpredictable basketball, and have some rules to it, you are going to preserve the protection off-balance,” Payne mentioned earlier this 12 months. “That is how I wish to play. I wish to be quick. I wish to be athletic. I wish to play with freedom. I wish to shoot the three, however I do not wish to stay by the three.” 

He added that studying and reacting can be key to success inside the system and that protection can be a focus. 

Off-court match: The Wagner household themselves do not have ties to Kentucky — solely to its coach. That’s not the case with Louisville. Milt Wagner performed at Louisville with its present coach. And Louisville legends have been a mainstay round DJ Wagner on the grassroots circuit due to these connections. That, seemingly, would make his match with this system go seamlessly, particularly given his familiarity and luxury degree with the varsity that dates again far longer than Kentucky. 

Connections: Shortly after Louisville tabbed Payne as Chris Mack’s successor, Payne tapped into the alumni pipeline and employed Milt Wagner as this system’s director of participant growth and alumni relations, almost certainly as a way to try and lure DJ Wagner to Louisville. Payne bringing Milt Wagner aboard is not their solely connection, although; they performed collectively at Louisville within the Nineteen Eighties and have been on the identical 1986 NCAA championship group collectively. In an announcement upon his hiring at Louisville, Milt Wagner referred to as Payne his “brother” and mentioned Louisville is his “second residence.” Dajuan Wagner, DJ’ Wagner’s father, referred to as Payne in an interview with ESPN his “uncle.”

Prediction: Kentucky

Calipari’s roots run deep within the Wagner household, and what he helped do for Dajuan Wagner (getting him to the NBA) and for Milt Wagner (giving him his begin in teaching) cannot be understated. Even with Milt Wagner’s presence at Louisville, the gravitational pull to UK — which presents a much bigger platform and an opportunity to play for a Corridor of Famer — may be an excessive amount of for the Cardinals to beat. 





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