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D.J. Wagner was a celebrated arrival for Kentucky basketball. Now, he's found a new school

Cameron Drummond, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

D.J. Wagner, the most celebrated prospect from UK basketball’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class, has found a new college basketball home.

On Sunday night, it was reported that Wagner — a 6-foot-4 guard from New Jersey — would be transferring to Arkansas after spending one season at Kentucky playing for former UK coach John Calipari.

In joining the Razorbacks, Wagner will also join a litany of ex-Wildcats and ex-Kentucky recruits who have stuck with Calipari as he went from Lexington to Fayetteville.

From last season’s Kentucky squad, Wagner joins Zvonimir Ivisic and Adou Thiero at Arkansas. Former class of 2024 UK basketball recruits Boogie Fland, Karter Knox and Billy Richmond will all be Hogs next season, too.

Wagner, who was UK’s starting point guard for the 2023-24 season, entered the NCAA transfer portal on April 15. That move came almost a week after Calipari left UK to become the new head coach at Arkansas, and less than 24 hours after the Wildcats introduced Mark Pope as the program’s new head coach.

Pope — the former head coach at BYU and Utah Valley and a key member of Kentucky’s 1996 NCAA championship team — was expected to meet with Wagner after he assumed his new role.

 

May 1 was the deadline for college basketball players (including graduate transfers) to enter the transfer portal. The early-entry deadline for the 2024 NBA draft has also already passed. Players who entered the draft with remaining NCAA eligibility have until Wednesday to remove their names from consideration and return to school.

When Wagner committed to Calipari and the Wildcats in November 2022, it was cause for celebration. Wagner spent much of his high school career as the top-ranked player in the 2023 recruiting class: Wagner was ultimately ranked as the No. 6 overall player in last year’s recruiting group, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Wagner’s decision to come to Kentucky was a major recruiting coup for Calipari, who also coached Wagner’s father, Dajuan, at Memphis. D.J. Wagner is also the grandson of former Louisville star Milt Wagner, who Calipari hired onto his basketball staff at Memphis during Dajuan’s playing days.

In his only college basketball season in Lexington, Wagner averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per game. He played in 29 games and started 28 of those contests.

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