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DJ Wagner is one of the most visible high school basketball prospects in recent years.

The star at Camden, N.J., High School has been ranked at or near the top of the Class of 2023 for several years and draws a jam-packed gym any time he laces up his shoes. Wagner is currently the No. 1 player in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and the No. 2 player in the 247Sports rankings.

Wagner has literally seen it all on the hardwood.

But this week he’s preparing for something a little different and something he called “very special,” and it has nothing to do with his high-profile recruitment.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard is in Colorado Springs, Colo., training with the USA Basketball Men’s U17 National Team for the FIBA U17 World Cup. The 12-man team will leave tomorrow for Malaga, Spain, with the first game slated for next Saturday against Lebanon.

“Oh man, this is definitely a blessing and an honor,” Wagner told Cardinal Authority on Saturday afternoon. “It’s a blessing for me to be able to play on this team and be a part of this with all these guys, playing for Team USA. . . . This is definitely a huge accomplishment for me.

“Just making the team, coming to training camp, and getting to play here and (in Spain) is such a big deal for me.”

Wagner had previously attended USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamps but this is the first time he’s made one of the teams for competition. And according to USA Basketball, his father – Dajuan Wagner Sr. – participated in the 1998 Youth Development Festival but never competed in a FIBA team competition during his time.

The team was selected by the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team Committee and represents the top players from the classes of 2023, ’24, and ’25.

“Honestly, this is something that really helps me prepare for the next level,” Wagner said. “The competition and the practice, hopefully, God willing if I make it to the next level and where I want to get to this will be something that will make it easier for me to adjust to that. It’s the best competition I could play against out there.

“Just being around other players and seeing how they play and the international play.”

Wagner said this is the first time he has been out of the country and said he’s “very familiar” with a few guys on the roster. A few of the guys on the roster are also on the Nike EYBl circuit, while he’s joined by fellow top 20 ’23 prospects Dennis Evans and Ron Holland, and another Louisville target in ’24 standout Karter Knox from Tampa, Fla.

The competition will keep Wagner from the first recruiting live period of the summer. He will miss the Nike EYBL stop in Kansas City with the NJ Scholars but said that he would be back for the Peach Jam later in July in Augusta, S.C.

Wagner said he feels like the spring and summer so far “have been really good” for his game.

“I feel like I have really developed more as a player,” he said. “I would say maybe my mental game has improved the most, the way I act towards the game, the way I prepare and the way mentally I get ready for the game, not getting frustrated and things like that. I think I am just better at how I approach things.”

As far as the recruiting process, Wagner said he’s “trying not to worry about it.”

“I am still open and really just enjoying the process,” Wagner said. “I really don’t want to rush my decision or make it too fast. Right now, I am just taking my time and looking around at all the schools and trying to see what’s the best school for me.”

It has appeared to be a Louisville vs. Kentucky battle in the recruiting process for Wagner.


The younger Wagner’s father, Dajuan, played at Memphis for Kentucky coach John Calipari and his grandfather, Milt Wagner, was on the Louisville 1986 NCAA National Championship team. Milt Wagner was hired on Kenny Payne’s staff last month at Louisville.

In April, the father said it would be his son’s decision.

“I went to Memphis,” Wagner said. “My dad went to Louisville, Kenny (Payne) is now at Louisville and that’s like my uncle. If DJ picked one of them (U of L or UK), I wouldn’t be mad but it’s DJ’s decision. It’s DJ’s decision. . . . Kenny Payne my uncle. Cal, I love Cal, that was my coach.”

DJ Wagner isn’t giving away any hints as to a favorite in the recruiting process with Memphis and Syracuse as other schools that have been mentioned.

But Wagner said he’s enjoying the process and he said Payne has been steady with his message for the youngster.”He’s been telling me to have fun, enjoy the process and do whatever makes me happy,” Wagner said on Saturday. “He’s always been like family, I have always been very comfortable with him and nothing has changed (since he’s jumped into the recruiting process). Nothing has changed with him at all.”

By Admins

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