DJ Wagner has it next: From FIBA ​​U17 gold to college basketball commitments, meet the third-generation NBA prospect set to make history

For those of you unfamiliar with DJ Wagner, now is the time to get acquainted.

Wagner is the No. 1 ranked player in the high school class of 2023. He’s a quick and sneaky combo guard, coming in at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds heading into his senior year at Camden High School in New Jersey.

The 17-year-old is a three-tiered scorer who deals the majority of his damage by attacking the dribble, able to turn a corner to go down and absorb contact to finish on the edge or stop on a dime and come back up for a jumper. His pace is odd for his age, still playing through his game with excellent body control. Opponents can’t speed him up or slow him down as he changes speed and direction at will to outrun his clash and take him in the teeth of a defense or use other advanced shot-creating moves to create space and get to a jump back.

In other words: Wagner is a bucket.

He’s a bulldog with a sleight of hand and a competitive attitude that comes from a renowned hoop family.

His father, Dajuan, is widely regarded as one of the best high school players of all time. He averaged 42.5 points per game and even dropped 100 points in a single game. After dominating in Memphis under head coach John Calipari, Dajuan became No. 6 overall in the 2002 NBA Draft.

Prior to that, DJ’s grandfather Milt was a college star at Louisville, helping lead the Cardinals to an NCAA championship in 1986. Milt also reached the NBA, being selected with the 11th pick in the second round of the 1986 draft.

DJ is well on his way to charting his own path to the league, his most recent achievement being a gold medal with Team USA at the FIBA ​​U17 Basketball World Cup in Spain. The tournament has helped Wagner gain invaluable experience as he prepares for his senior season in high school and a big decision ahead.

“It was a really fun experience playing against different teams around the world,” Wagner told TSN. “It’s really cool to see how different basketball is around the world and how different it is to play against other countries.”

The United States managed their opponents, winning seven games with an average margin of 41 points. It was Wagner’s first time leaving the United States, so he and his teammates made sure to seize the opportunity. When they weren’t at the gym, they took time to enjoy Spain by going to the beach and on the promenade in front of the hotel. But competing alongside some of the best high school players the country has to offer gave Wagner a ton of training with intense battles where he was able to work on areas of his game to prepare for the next level.

“Playing with the ball, filling the lanes in transition, just little things like that to help me improve my game,” Wagner said.

As a combo guard and prolific scorer, it shouldn’t surprise you that Wagner studies filmmaking on star guards like Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving.

MORE: Lillard signs lucrative contract extension with Trail Blazers

“Different players where I can learn different things from their game that they all do really well and then I just try to put that into my game,” Wagner said. “(My coaches) just tell me to watch different players and learn from each of them.

“Then they try to show me drills when I practice to add different tools to help my game.”

While watching the tape and learning from the best in the world has been key to many prospects’ success, having a relationship with a current NBA star is even better. Wagner has a particularly close relationship with Jalen Brunson, a New Jersey native who just signed a huge contract with the New York Knicks this offseason.

Brunson’s father, Rick, was Wagner’s high school coach at Camden during his first three seasons. He recently signed as an assistant with the Knicks for the 2022-23 season.

“He’s a great player,” Wagner said of Brunson. “He also gave me knowledge about the game.

“I trained with him many times. I learned different things working with him. Different drills to help me in my game.

“He works hard,” Wagner said emphatically.

MORE: Brunson’s contract with the Knicks begs a $104 million question: Is he a star?

Wagner’s goal is to one day line up against Brunson and other NBA stars in the league. This is the goal of many young hopefuls. But Wagner is also continuing the story in his pursuit of the NBA.

Brunson is one of many second-generation NBA players in the league right now. Wagner has a unique opportunity to become the very first third generation player in NBA history behind his father, Dajuan, and grandfather, Milt.

“It would be a huge honor. A great honor,” he told TSN. “Just knowing that I’m coming after two great players like that, just knowing how great they were and the legacy they left for each other. Just being able to come up behind them and even tie my shoes, whether that either in college or in the NBA, it’s just an honor.”

And with all due respect to his pops, Wagner said he and his dad fight over everything.

“We could be in the gym and then start shooting against each other and stuff like that. We’re a competitive family, so we always like to compete.”

Although he laughed when he admitted that he still hasn’t beaten his father 1-1 yet.

“We haven’t played for a while, so maybe I could now.”

Wagner is the top rookie in the country, but he has yet to make an official decision on his future plans. However, he echoed the same plan to TSN that he originally told CBS’ Matt Norlander in August.

“I’m going to college for sure,” Wagner said. “So right now I’m just enjoying the process. I’m trying to really see my options. Just enjoy the process and take it one day at a time. But from now on I’m going to college for sure. sure. “

DJ-Wagner-College-Quote

Despite being the No. 1 ranked player, Wagner remains balanced and doesn’t take the process for granted.

“I appreciate it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Wagner continued. “Not all children can choose where they want to go to college or accept offers to go to college for free.

“I appreciate every little moment. I feel like I’m lucky to even get an offer from any college. So I take advantage of it, I do different tours and stuff like that.”

It doesn’t get much more humble than that.

Wagner would eventually choose between elite schools like Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Villanova and many more. But as he gets back to work for next season, he’ll take time off to do things he loves like playing Call of Duty: Warzone or pushing the numbers with his favorite player, Lillard, in NBA 2K.

From public school phenom to future college star to the very first third-generation player in NBA history, DJ Wagner is next.

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