Top-2 National Recruit Hints at What Pulls DJ Wagner to Arkansas

Cameron Boozer, DJ Wagner, Arkansas basketball, Kentucky basketball
photo credit: Instagram/cameron_boozer_12 / Kentucky Athletics

Arkansas basketball will reportedly host Kentucky transfer guard DJ Wagner for a visit this weekend, per Jon Rothstein.

In what has become the first jousting match between John Calipari and Eric Musselman, Wagner will be making the trip to Fayetteville to see what his head coach has to offer at his new spot. The current and former Head Hog appear to be the two leaders in the clubhouse for Wagner’s services, as he took a visit to USC a couple weeks ago.

The 19-year-old averaged 9.9 points, 3.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. Due to a number of injury issues and backcourt competition with soon-to-be lottery picks in Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, Wagner was not quite able to live up to the huge expectations that were placed on him going into college. 

A former McDonald’s All-American and the No. 6 overall recruit in the Class of 2023, it was hardly the freshman year he was hoping for. The Camden, NJ, native will surely be looking to maximize his elite potential at his new school and achieve his goal of getting to the next level as soon as possible.

While the prospect of USC is appealing as a big-city, west-coast destination and the possibility of reuniting with star Trojan JuJu Watkins, whom Wagner is rumored to be dating, Coach Cal’s reputation with legacy recruits might give him the leg up in this recruiting battle – on the court, at least.

John Calipari’s Legacy with Legacies

Calipari has built a reputation as the best recruiter in the history of college basketball, and he’s done that by always prioritizing relationships over everything else. He once labeled his operation as “La Familia,” and has even gone as far as using marriage analogies in his recruiting pitches.

“He is a Hall of Fame coach who cares about his players,” Boogie Fland said after his initial commitment to Kentucky. “He only wants the best for you. Off the court, he’s a funny guy. He has a lot of jokes, and they are spot on. He told me that this decision was like a marriage. You need to say, ‘I do.’”

Fland has since stayed true to his “vows” and joined Calipari at Arkansas.

The 65-year-old has had a particular penchant for legacy recruits over the decades, as he’s been around in the game long enough to have recruited the children of his own former players. It’s not often that a coach has enough experience to span two (and sometimes three) generations within the same family, but that’s what Calipari brings to the table.

Such legacies can already be found populating his inaugural roster at Arkansas, as three of the Hogs’ seven scholarship players so far have direct relatives who played for Calipari in some capacity. It’s not a matter of mere nepotism, either, as all three are either current or former blue-chip recruits.

Adou Thiero’s father, Almamy, played for John Calipari during his stint at Memphis. The elder Thiero was teammates on the Tigers with Billy Richmond II. His son, Billy III, is also committed to the Razorbacks for the upcoming season. Interestingly, Richmond II’s time at Memphis ended on a sour note with a suspension that caused him to leave the team, but it appears he isn’t holding a grudge against his former coach.

Another incoming freshman, Karter Knox, has an older brother, Kevin, who played for Coach Cal at Kentucky and became a lottery pick.

Magic with Cameron Boozer and Other Top Recruits?

But Calipari’s magic with legacy recruits is so profound it seems to extend even beyond prospects who have actually played for him. Take Cameron Boozer, for example, whose father, Carlos, starred for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke when the Blue Devils won the national title in 2001.

The 16-year-old Boozer now finds himself ranked as the No. 2 overall player in the Class of 2025. On3 Sports has listed his father’s alma mater as the longtime favorite for his signature, with Kentucky and home state schools Miami (FL) and Florida also in the mix. Judging by his recent comments, it sounds like there might have been a major shakeup in the race.

When Boozer was asked in late April if he had heard from Kentucky since the coaching staff change, he simply replied “no,” and said that he knew “nothing” about Mark Pope and his new staff in Lexington…not exactly a glowing review.

“I wasn’t expecting [Calipari] to leave Kentucky,” Boozer said. “I think it’s a completely different program. I think a big part of all their success recently and the players they’ve gotten is because of Coach Cal. If they were to reach out, it would be a whole different recruiting process.”

Based on this new state of affairs, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Arkansas replaced Kentucky in the chase for Boozer’s signature. The fact that Calipari has such a strong pull with legacy recruits who aren’t even his own speaks volumes about his massive reputation in the recruiting landscape.

Boozer hasn’t yet discussed any plans to visit Arkansas, but three of his most impressive blue-chip peers from the class of 2025 are likely to make the trip.

On Thursday, news emerged that the 6’8″ five-star forward Koa Peat will visit Arkansas – likely in the fall. The Arizonian is already familiar with the state given that his older sister, Maya Peat, just finished her senior year at UAPB.

Meanwhile, John Calipari has an inside track with Darryn Peterson, the top-ranked shooting guard in the 2025 class who attends the same Huntington Prep school in West Virginia that Moses Kingsley did. When Calipari was still at Kentucky, Peterson was the first 2025 prospect to whom he extended an offer.

Then there’s Darius Acuff, the top-rated point guard in the class of 2025 who flashes just about every skill you’d want from that position in the clip below. He will be on an official visit to Arkansas this weekend alongside Wagner.

How It Relates to DJ Wagner

Wagner’s familial ties to Calipari are very well-documented, spanning three generations. His father, Dajuan, played for Coach Cal at Memphis en route to becoming a top-ten pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Dajuan’s father, Milt, was on the staff as the director of basketball operations during his son’s lone season playing for the Tigers.

The signature of the latest Wagner would add to a formidable backcourt on the Razorbacks alongside the five-star Fland and top-ranked transfer Johnell Davis.

Calipari won the first edition of Wagner’s high school recruitment but will have to fend off stiff competition from Musselman to keep him away from USC. Calipari has a nearly perfect record at Arkansas so far with landing recruits after getting them in for a visit, and sealing the deal with Wagner this weekend would keep that trend going.


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