DJ Wagner can complete family trifecta in McD's All-American Game
In 1981, following a dominant career at Camden High School, Milt Wagner was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game. Twenty years later, DaJuan Wagner was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game after scoring close to 3,500 points at Camden High School. Twenty-two years later, DJ Wagner. could make the trio the first grandfather-father-son combination to make the prestigious event in its history.
DJ Wagner is one of the youngest prospects – he won't turn 15 until May – yet one of the best freshmen in America.
He knows etching his family name in McDonald's All-American Game history will be on his shoulders over the next three years.
“Exciting,” he said. “They know what it takes because they have been through this whole process. So they know what it takes to be a good player and they have showed me and taught me new stuff every day.”
His dad, DaJuan Wagner, concluded his NBA career in 2006 and was the sixth overall selection in the 2002 NBA Draft following his lone season at Memphis. He has been the most hands-on in the development of his son. Meanwhile, the eldest in the family, Milt Wagner, has remained involved.
“I am just sitting back and watching,” he said. “I know DaJuan, he went through it already so he knows what it takes to get to that level so I can just sit back and enjoy. I call and give him advice if I see that he needs to do some things but as far as that, dad has it under control.”
The youngest Wagner has become known for his quick-twitch abilities and all-around skillset, while his father was a bit different.
“DaJuan was probably a lot stronger as a freshman," Milt said. "He was probably a bit more aggressive than DJ was but there are a lot of similarities there. He had to do more but DJ has a lot more around him and he can kind of pick his spots.”
Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi was just starting out in the recruiting industry when DaJuan was completing his prep career.
“When I watched his dad in high school, he was a ferocious, in-your-face scorer and athlete,” Bossi said. “DJ has that same confidence his dad played with but he’s more of a quiet assassin and plays a game that is more based on skill and savvy.”
DJ has grown more than three inches within the past 18 months, boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan, and wears size 14 shoes. It is not difficult to see just how great he can become, though he has already displayed tremendous production thus far averaging more than 18 points for Camden.
Coached by Rick Brunson, who spent a decade in the NBA as both a player and then as a coach, talked about DJ's strengths.
“He is mature beyond his years. That is the first thing I noticed,” Brunson said. “He has the drive to be the best. He lives in the gym. He is a student of the game and knows the people have come before him but also who is in his class and all of his peers.”
DaJuan expressed a similar response about his son's best traits.
“I have just said (to him) work hard. Same thing that he (Milt) put in me," DaJuan said. "This part should be easy. When you’re working, just have fun and no pressure. Enjoy this time. It will go fast.”
Milt has taken on a separate role in DJ’s life compared with his father’s.
“I am probably a little more mellow than he is but I just keep telling him to keep playing hard and every time that he steps onto the floor, just know that people are going to go at you,” Milt said. “You need to be at the top of your game each time that you step onto the floor.”
Already creating plenty of buzz nationally and attending the same high school that his father and grandpop had, nothings seems too big for DJ.
“I think that he is just born with that,” DaJuan said. “He has just been staying working and knowing that he can keep getting better.”
DJ Wagner was a bit more concise with his own response.
“It is in my blood,” he said.
The third story of potential basketball stardom is just beginning for the Wagner family. Could DJ reach the same ceiling that his father and grandpop did, earning an invite to the McDonald’s All-American Game, which would be the first in the event’s history?
“It would be great,” he said. “It would be a great accomplishment to me but also for my family but I just have to keep doing what I do.”
Is the No. 1 ranking ahead for Wagner? Does he win gold with various USA Basketball outfits? Is the NBA in his future?
Brunson thinks Wagner can be that special.
“I had my son in ninth grade and they are not even comparable at the same stage,” he said regarding former Villanova standout Jalen Brunson. “I always ask if he wants to be the best freshman in the country or if he wants to be the best senior in the country.”
Maybe Milt Wagner, someone who has been through the battles and seen what it takes to get to the top, might say it best for what the future might entail: “Sky’s the limit.”