Kentucky's starting point guard is in the transfer portal. All options are on the table

Ben Roberts, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

As expected, D.J. Wagner is likely to be a one-and-done player at the University of Kentucky.

Wagner — the Wildcats’ starting point guard during the 2023-24 season — jumped into the transfer portal Monday morning, less than 24 hours after Mark Pope was introduced as UK’s new men’s basketball coach and nearly a week removed from John Calipari’s resignation from the position.

While he could still enter and remain in the 2024 NBA draft, Wagner will explore all of his basketball options for next season. The 18-year-old is projected as a second-round pick in this year’s draft after spending much of his high school career as the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2023 recruiting rankings.

According to 247Sports, Wagner does plan to meet with Pope before making a final decision on his basketball future. Pope said during his introductory press conference Sunday in Rupp Arena that he wanted to have discussions with all of Kentucky’s current players and the program’s committed recruits regarding the next steps in their careers.

“Right now, we are focused on the current players and recruits coming in, and it is mostly just figuring out, meeting with them and figuring out if they are the right fit for us right now and how it fits,” Pope said.

Even if that meeting happens, it would be a major surprise if Wagner returns to Lexington.

The 6-foot-4 freshman from Camden, New Jersey, is the son of Dajuan Wagner, who was Calipari’s first star player at Memphis. He’s also the grandson of former Louisville star Milt Wagner, who Calipari hired onto his basketball staff at Memphis during Dajuan’s playing days.

The deep family ties between Calipari and the Wagners were ultimately a major factor in D.J. committing to the Wildcats out of high school, where he emerged early on as the top-ranked prospect in the country, spending most of his prep career atop the 2023 recruiting lists. He finished at No. 6 in the 247Sports rankings.

Wagner averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per game for Kentucky this past season, making 28 starts in 29 appearances.

If he stays in college, Wagner would be one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal, and Arkansas would be widely viewed as a favorite to land his commitment. ESPN currently ranks him at No. 48 overall on its list of the top 100 prospects for the 2024 NBA draft, putting him in second-round territory.

Kentucky’s roster situation for 2024-25


Wagner’s decision leaves only three Kentucky players — Reed Sheppard, Ugonna Onyenso and Jordan Burks — who have not yet entered the transfer portal or declared for the NBA draft. The Wildcats’ 2023-24 roster had 10 players with remaining college eligibility, but most of that group was expected to leave the program even if Calipari had returned for a 16th season.

Now that the longtime head coach is gone, it’s possible that Pope could be working with a whole new roster for the 2024-25 campaign.

Calipari had six high school players committed for next season — the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country — but only two remain in that group following the decommitment of five-star point guard Boogie Fland on Monday morning.

The two left are point guard Travis Perry and shooting guard Billy Richmond, but Richmond — another son of a former Calipari player at Memphis — is expected to back out of his pledge in the near future. Perry, a star player at Lyon County and Kentucky’s reigning Mr. Basketball, attended Pope’s ceremony Sunday and is likely to remain with the Wildcats’ program.

Sheppard, the son of Jeff Sheppard, who was Pope’s college roommate during their playing days at UK, has not yet revealed his plans for next season. He’s projected as a lottery pick in the 2024 NBA draft. Onyenso and Burks are expected to look at other options elsewhere, though neither had made any announcements as of Monday.

Freshman 7-footer Zvonimir Ivisic projects as an ideal fit for Pope’s modern offense, but he put his name in the portal over the weekend. Ivisic is expected to meet with Pope on Monday regarding his future, though it’s not yet clear how seriously he is considering a return to UK.

College players have until May 1 to enter the transfer portal, and the deadline to put their names in the NBA draft is April 27.

Any college players who enter the draft must remove their names from consideration by May 29 to retain their NCAA eligibility.


©2024 Lexington Herald-Leader. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus