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Kentucky freshman Wagner enters transfer portal

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Kentucky freshman Wagner enters transfer portal

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Kentucky freshman D.J. Wagner, a former top-five recruit in the 2023 class, entered the transfer portal Monday.

Wagner, a 6-foot-4 guard from Camden, New Jersey, immediately becomes one of the more intriguing backcourt players in the college basketball portal.

The son of former high school phenom and NBA player Dajuan Wagner, D.J. Wagner was considered the top player in the 2023 class for much of his high school career. He was one of the best scorers on the Nike EYBL circuit and led Camden High School to the New Jersey state title.

Wagner also earned MVP honors at the McDonald’s All American Game.

He finished his high school career ranked No. 4 in the ESPN 100 and entered Kentucky with first-round NBA draft projections. After a couple of early 20-point efforts against Saint Joseph’s and Marshall, however, he was inconsistent on the offensive end.

Wagner finished the season scoring in single-digits in 10 of his final 13 games, including a scoreless outing in Kentucky’s NCAA tournament loss to Oakland.

He was still able to show flashes of his high-level playmaking ability, including 18 points and 10 assists vs. Georgia; 18 points vs. Texas A&M; 14 points and five assists against North Carolina; and 19 points against Arkansas.

He finished his freshman season averaging 9.9 points and 3.3 assists.

Wagner was the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Kentucky and Louisville. Then-Kentucky coach John Calipari coached Wagner’s father at Memphis, while then-Louisville coach Kenny Payne played with Wagner’s grandfather Milt on Louisville’s 1986 national championship team. Wagner’s stepbrother, Kareem Watkins, was a walk-on at Kentucky, and Payne hired Milt Wagner as the program’s director of player development and alumni relations.

Kentucky has undergone massive roster changes since Calipari left for Arkansas last week. Wagner is the team’s second key player to enter the portal, following high school teammate Aaron Bradshaw, and four of the Wildcats’ six 2024 recruits have decommitted and reopened their recruitments.

Bradshaw, the No. 36-ranked transfer, announced his commitment to Ohio State on Monday. He had visited the Buckeyes’ campus this past weekend.

A 7-foot-1 center, Bradshaw was ranked No. 6 in the ESPN 100 for the 2023 class but a foot injury last spring forced him to miss the entire offseason and delayed his Kentucky debut until early December.

He made an immediate impact once healthy, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds against Penn in the second game of his career and scoring 12 points against North Carolina a week later. Bradshaw saw his role diminish as the season progressed, though, culminating with six total minutes in two SEC and NCAA tournament games.

He finished his freshman season with averages of 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds, but his ceiling and two-way ability offer intriguing upside upon his arrival at Ohio State under new head coach Jake Diebler.

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