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One Fan’s DJ Wagner Report

OK, I’ll hold off on my usual self referential hoo ha and cut to the chase.

DJ Wagner and his New Jersey Scholars mates opened their stay at the Louisville session of the EYBL Saturday morning with a 73-71 W over ProSkills.

Bottom Line: Yes, Milt’s grandson is a baller you would like to have playing for your favorite school.

Even my less than astute eye can tell that.

In spite of his his superprep top of his class or close to that status, he doesn’t preen. He doesn’t posture. He doesn’t complain to the refs.

He plays the game. He stays focused.

He handled the rock 4, 5, 6 times before ever taking a shot. He sees the court. He finds his teammates. His passing is deft.

He’s a great ball handler.

Like elite players do, he accelerates effectively when taking the ball to the rim. Especially on straight line drives, when he was relatively unimpeded thanks to sets being run by his squad.

He’s also able to maneuver effectively through traffic, changing handles, reversing, finishing. Which he did several time late in the tilt that was always close.

He doesn’t need the ball. While he handles the rock most of the time, it’s never hogged. He moves well without it.

In fact, when his team won on a most cool layup on an inbounds play at the buzzer, Wagner was a decoy.

His defense is solid.

Three plays come to mind. All on ProSkills’ breakouts.

Twice Wagner stole the rock, adroitly anticipating the pass. On the other, instead of swatting at the dribbler attempting to circumvent the play, he retreated with good footwork, and was able to thwart a score.

Conclusion: He’s not overrated. His acclaim comes legitimately for the Class of ‘23 recruit.

* * * * *

Aaron Bradshaw, also Class of ‘23, DJ’s teammate, the big who has U of L on his final list is . . . skinny. Like, really skinny. Like, makes JJ Traynor look like The Rock.

So, he needs to gain weight and strength.

But he has skills. Pretty good passer. Sees the court.

It’s understandable he’s desired.

* * * * *

So, the duo has a teammate, #24. As the game progresses, it dawns on my untrained eye that he is also a real good basketball player.

Turns out, I come late to the party.

Mackenzie Mgbako is a Duke Commit.

Good eye, Seedy.

* * * * *

Unlike my unknowing take on AAU hoops, both teams in the game I watched were well-coached and disciplined. Minimal hero ball.

* * * * *

There’s an advance article about the EYBL event here in Louisville in one of the national online ‘zines, with this subheader: “DJ Wagner will bring out Louisville and Kentucky fans in droves.”

I thought the same.

To my surprise, I didn’t observe a single attendee Saturday morning in UK garb. Which is obviously an anecdotal observation, but a shade odd.

In addition to the large number of former Cardinal ballers, there were more than a few fans surrounding the corner, wearing U of L merch.

Including, ahem, yours truly. At the direction of Doc, with whom I went to the game, I wore my #31 Unseld throwback. Garnering a few thumbs up.

* * * * *

All the local sports media were in the house. Scribes. Talking heads. Photographers.

Some even followed the team postgame to Wicks on Bardstown Road, hoping for a comment from the well-protected high schooler. Which, I’m advised, they did not get.

* * * * *

The final question in my mind before arriving at the game: Would Milt Wagner be in the house?

Under normal circumstances, it’s a no brainer, right? Grandparents go see their grandkids perform. But, as we’re aware, this isn’t a typical situation.

One has to assume U of L Compliance has done some due diligence, some vetting. Let’s hope so.

Milt was present, and proud. Along with Grif and Pervis (Head of the NJ AAU program) and Herb and Tick and Sidney and Kevin and a bunch of other former Cards.

— c d kaplan