Updated: Nov 18, 2022
After a 17 year long recruitment, Coach Cal finally gets his guy. DJ Wagner, a consensus 5 star recruit and top 5 player in the 2023 recruiting class, commits to John Calipari and the University of Kentucky.
By now almost everyone knows the story. Coach Cal coached Dajuan Wagner Sr., DJ's dad, during his time at Memphis and turned him into the 6th overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. However, Wagner originally was going to come back for a senior year to Memphis. While Cal could have selfishly recruited Wagner back to play another year for him, he forced him to go pro as he knew the generational wealth built from being a top NBA draft pick would be best for Wagner. Because of this selflessness, many have assumed that DJ Wagner would be a lock to play for John Calipari since he left the womb. However, some of this certainty turned to doubt after Coach Cal's former assistant Kenny Payne took the head coaching job at Louisville and signed Milt Wagner, DJ's grandfather, to his staff. Crystal Ball predictions quickly turned to the Cardinals and it seemed as if Coach Cal's 17 year long recruitment might end in losing a top player to his biggest rival. Whether it was the dumpster fire of Louisville basketball, or a late push by John Calipari that changed his mind, or maybe he was never going to Louisville at all, but Coach Cal gets the job done and completes his super class.
In the class of 2023, Kentucky now has the #1 player overall (DJ Wagner), the #1 small forward (Justin Edwards), the #1 center (Aaron Bradshaw), the #2 point guard (Robert Dillingham), and the #1 player from the state of Kentucky (Reed Sheppard) according to 247Sports composite rankings. It is important to recognize that it did not come easily. Edwards was once a lock to Tennessee, Dillingham was committed to NC State and Wagner and Bradshaw both had moments of trending towards Louisville. These are the recruitments (i.e. Cade Cunningham, Paolo Banchero, James Wiseman, etc.) that Calipari and staff were losing in past years. After a few years of being the second choice, being a 'hat on the table', being just quite not able to get the job done, Swaggy Cal is officially back.
DJ Wagner will be a perfect fit for next year's roster. He can play off of the ball alongside Robert Dillingham, but can also act as a secondary ball handler, in the combo-guard role that John Calipari has had so much success with. He has proven he can the be the guy to take over a heavy scoring load, but also shown he can play with other stars as he shared an AAU team with other top 10 prospects in Aaron Bradshaw and Mackenzie Mgbako. Being under the spotlight as one of the most anticipated prospects in recent years, he should also relatively easily adapt to playing on the biggest stage in college basketball at Kentucky. Both on the court and off the court, DJ Wagner is a match made in heaven for Coach Cal and Kentucky.
Kentucky basketball has a top 5 team in the country and has games against Michigan State and Gonzaga this week alone. However, it is impossible not to look forward and imagine how fun next year's recruiting class will look like when they finally get to play in the blue and white.
Camden High School has announced that their team will officially be signing this Wednesday at 3:30 pm, so after then DJ Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw will officially be Cats, giving Kentucky the hands down #1 recruiting class in the nation.