Footage with Ulis, Thiero NIL $$ Shows Why DJ Wagner’s Fate Should be No-Brainer

DJ Wagner, Tyler Ulis, Arkansas basketball

The Arkansas basketball team has whiffed on a grand total of one recruit so far this offseason.

Brandon Garrison decided that he didn’t want any of that smoke when it came to carving out minutes beside 6-foot-11 Jonas Aidoo and 7-foot-2 Zvonimir Ivisic, so he decided to go to the more sure thing in terms of getting off the bench when he chose the Kentucky basketball program instead.

Good for him. Wildcats coach Mark Pope needs some kind of consolation considering he’s been hemorrhaging UK players, recruits and staff members deciding to follow John Calipari left and right.

This week’s blue-to-red exodus has been the largest yet since the former Wildcats head man rocked the foundations of the college basketball world after conversations with John Tyson and Hunter Yurachek.

Raiding UK for Arkansas Basketball Continues

John Calipari already had three former Wildcats assistants in place and has recently dumped a whole lot more, considering the UA basketball directory now lists the following as part of his staff in Fayettevillle:

  • Assistant James “Bruiser” Flint
  • Former Kentucky video coordinator Kevin Butty, assistant to Flint
  • Assistant video coordinator Kevin Gallagher
  • Associate athletics director for basketball operations Chris Woolard

In terms of the new Arkansas basketball staff, the most high-profile addition will be Tyler Ulis, the former SEC Player of the Year whom Calipari recently announced would join him in Fayetteville in an undisclosed position. Ulis is a Kentucky basketball legend, owner of the all-time UK record for assists in a single season and the best pure point guard Calipari coached in Lexington.

“Ulis was a student-assistant for Kentucky the past two seasons and many had held out hope that Mark Pope would find some role for him in Lexington,” a Sea of Blue’s Big Blue Drew wrote. “His charisma and rapport with the players made him the type of coach that any program would be happy to have.”

At Arkansas, expect Ulis will get to keep working with three of his former guys in Lexington. The two who have already committed are Ivisic and Adou Thiero, the 6-foot-8 small forward who announced his destination earlier this week.

Thiero’s recruitment was a bit drawn out and took longer than many expected, but in the end he chose to throw his lot in with the Razorbacks. Expect Wagner, who has also been in the portal for longer than expected and visited Eric Musselman at USC not long ago, to do the same during or not long after his visit to Arkansas this weekend.

In fact, Arkansas bringing aboard Thiero and Ulis make this all but a certainty.

First off, there’s a bit of tea leaf reading in a post like this:

But that isn’t nearly as significant as a couple of other factors at play:

Big Bucks for Adou Thiero

By this point, single-season NIL deals in the 7-digit range are becoming expected for the biggest transfers who have already proven themselves against top competition.

Given that Arkansas put a vastly expanded NIL fund near the center of the offer to Calipari, it isn’t a surprise that top transfers like Johnell Davis and Jonas Aidoo are reportedly getting more than a million dollars for a single season on the Hill. They should become, after all, the centerpieces of Calipari’s 2024-25 squad.

But the full financial firepower behind the program really comes through in what it can afford to pay to likely role players.

In a recent “Eye on College Basketball” podcast, however, CBS’s Matt Norlander dropped that Thiero is also making in the same range.

“Johnell Davis, Jonas Aidoo, Adou Thiero — these are all players that as transfers are accepted in the industry to be receiving a million plus dollars in NIL through the collective there,” he said.

This is for a rising sophomore who averaged 7.2 points and 5 rebounds a game last season, mind you, not an All-SEC forward or borderline All-American guard.

Granted, the hyper-athletic Thiero projects to start at wing for the Hogs. No, he’s nowhere neared as skilled as another 6’8″ wing with a similar build, OKC Thunder forward Josh Giddey, but some of that ability could develop over time with the right coaching and dedication. If there were prop betting on the top three rebounders for the Razorbacks next season in Giddey’s home nation of Australia thanks to, say, Online Casino Welcome Bonus Codes Australia, it’s a safe bet that Thiero would find himself among this group.

If he’s going to take a big leap to fulfill some of his promise, doing so going from his freshman to sophomore season would make the most sense. But right now, he’s earning an awful lot on potential alone, which shows Tyson and the rest of the boosters are walking the walk when they commit to bankrolling the kind of depth and talent John Calipari will need to beat the Alabamas, UConns and Kansases of the world.

DJ Wagner may not be quite as valuable as Thiero since he’s five inches shorter and 6’3″ guards are more common, but he was considered one of the top handful of guards in his high school class and could also prove to be very valuable on a team that needs experience and play-creating in the backcourt alongside Davis and “Boogie” Fland.

If Davis were to get injured, or Fland doesn’t progress quite as quickly as hoped in his freshman season (a la Wagner last season), DJ Wagner’s value will soar. When looking at the big picture, it should be expected that his NIL deal ends up in the high six digits at least.

DJ Wagner Vibes with Tyler Ulis

Last season, the 28-year-old Tyler Ulis got to regularly work with the Kentucky basketball players while he pursued a degree.

Since the 5-foot-8 Ulis excelled at point guard, he often helped train DJ Wagner. Indeed, in the video below, you can see Ulis wearing a long-sleeve shirt with Wagner’s name and jersey number on the back while he’s giving Wagner pointers on how to better drive to the basket.

Clearly, DJ Wagner and Ulis already have a good rapport going.

That kind of coaching continuity and chemistry can only help him develop into the skilled, heady combo guard he’ll need to become in order to stick around at the next level. The biggest production jump in college basketball is usually done between freshman and sophomore years, and Ulis himself broke out as a sophomore.

Wagner should be able to improve more quickly if he simply keeps working with the coaches and staff members who already know his game inside and out and already had him on a personalized developmental track these past 11 months or so.

The prospects of more money coming from Arkansas than most anywhere else, as well as getting to stick around staff like Ulis who can better keep him on track for the NBA, make an overwhelming case for the Razorbacks.

That’s why Eric Musselman will need to find himself another combo guard elsewhere.

See more of DJ Wagner and Tyler Ulis starting at 1:10 here:

YouTube video

YouTube video

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