DJ WagnerThe No. 1-ranked high school senior announced his commitment to Kentucky men’s basketball Monday, choosing the Wildcats over Louisville.

Wagner’s commitment gives John Calipari and Kentucky the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. If the Wildcats finish the cycle on top — and Wagner’s commitment completes that — it will be Calipari’s seventh time in Lexington, and Kentucky has a top-ranked recruiting class. Wagner is the fourth number 1 Shaedon Sharpe, Nerlens Noel And Anthony Davis.

“This was a very difficult decision that I went back and forth with for a long time. That’s why it took so long,” Wagner told ESPN. “I’m very comfortable with my decision. Coach John Calipari has always been direct and honest with me. He said he’ll be with me until the wheels fall off the car either way. That meant a lot to me. When I looked at him, I could feel the strength of the coach, how he disciplined the team and how he broke it down.

“The atmosphere in Kentucky is incredible,” he added. “I’ve been there many times and it’s very comfortable.”

Wagner was the subject of a high-profile recruiting battle between in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville, with strong family ties to both programs. Calipari coached Wagner’s father, Dajuan, at Memphis, and first-year Louisville coach Kenny Payne played with Wagner’s grandfather, Milt, on Louisville’s 1986 national championship team.

In May, Payne hired Milt Wagner as the program’s director of player development and alumni relations — the same move Calipari hired Milt in Memphis in 2000. Wagner’s stepbrother, Kareem WatkinsIt’s a hike in Kentucky.

“My older brother Kareem is also in the team,” he said. “I’ve made a big difference. I look up to him. We’re very close.”

“My grandfather was always my grandfather through the process. He never tried to recruit me. He always said what was good for me. He was a mentor in my life and helped me become the player and person that I am. He always will. Be family first. Nothing but love for him.”

A 6-foot-3 guard from Camden High School (New Jersey), Wagner has been considered a top prospect in the 2023 class since the start of his high school career. He averaged 18.8 points and 4.9 assists on the Nike EYBL circuit last spring and summer with the NJ Scholars grassroots program, including nine 20-point efforts in 18 games. As a high school junior last season, Wagner averaged 19.8 points and led Camden to a New Jersey state championship.

Wagner helped lead USA Basketball to a gold medal at the 2022 FIBA ​​U17 World Championship, starting all seven games and averaging 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

It brings a real competitive spirit to the game; Winning is beyond Wagner. He went to USA Basketball with the mindset of winning a gold medal. He is at his best on the field playing in transition. Defensively rebounds and then pushes the ball to the floor as well as anyone in the room. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense with his speed to score and his vision to assist. He is a point guard in the Cleveland Cavaliers star mold. Darius Garland.

Wagner’s improvement from the perimeter is a big advantage when the game is down to half court. He’s learning how to coordinate in pick-and-rolls and is always effective as a downhill dive, getting into the paint and finishing with great body control. Once in the paint, he is decisive, knows when to pick up, jump and use the floater or shoot for an open teammate. On the defensive side, he is effective when protecting the ball and has good judgment off the ball.

Wagner joins a Kentucky class that now includes four of the top eight in the Class of 2023. Justin Edwards (No. 2), Aaron Bradshaw (No. 5) and Robert Dillingham (No. 8) already in the fold. The Wildcats also signed their No. 26-ranked prospect Reed Sheppard.

This is just the third time in the past 10 years that a school has had four top-10 prospects in the same class: Kentucky in 2013, five of nine and Duke in 2017.

“I’m coming there to win,” Wagner said. “Winning comes first with me and I want to help Kentucky win as much as possible.”

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