Most NBA evaluators have seen little of Camden, New Jersey, junior DJ Wagner, but they all know his name.
Scouts have been waiting for a new or first chance to get eyes on the esteemed son of the 2002 NBA draft's No. 6 pick, Dajuan Wagner. The 6'3", 16-year-old has already built a reputation as a prized prospect, having been a 2019 USA Basketball camp invitee and the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class for the second year.
Bleacher Report first saw him live as a freshman at the Hoophall Classic in 2020. He enters 2022's Hoophall East as the headliner after developing into a full-package guard with a pro's approach, groomed by both his father, Dajuan, and head coach Rick Brunson, a nine-year NBA pro himself.
In an era when teenage prospects use social media to market their brands and build massive followings, Wagner has no major accounts. Read into that however you’d like.
Wagner appears destined to become the NBA's first third-generation player, following the footsteps of Dajuan and his grandfather, Milt, a second-round pick in 1986. But we're still about three seasons away from his projected 2024 draft date.
With DJ's well-documented focus and a strong developmental setting under Coach Brunson, signs point to his becoming the Wagner family's biggest success story and one of basketball's next premier prospects.
Wagner opened the season last week with a 25-point performance, leading Camden to a comeback over Roselle Catholic in his school’s brand-new gym.
He flashed a bit of everything, which is ultimately the draw to Wagner long term. His skill set is well-rounded, and it’s reasonable to call him either a lead guard or combo guard.
For Camden, he's splitting ball-handling duties with 6'0" Cian Medley. It's beneficial for Wagner's development to spend time on and off the ball, creating and spot-up shooting alongside another point guard.
Attacking defenses off the dribble is Wagner’s signature strength. He's highly effective using rhythm and timing of his change-of-speed/direction moves. He’s not necessarily known for explosiveness, but he doesn't have trouble beating defenders or creating finishing angles. He already has advanced footwork and finds gaps with nuance.
He’s somewhat limited around the rim in traffic, lacking burst on his leaps. But he's crafty in the lane with the ability to improvise using either hand. He can also comfortably pull up with a floater before rim protection converges.
Wagner relies more on driving than his jumper, but at his age, he's flashed enough signs of shot-making skill to feel good about his shooting development. Wagner hit four threes against Roselle, looking confident and in rhythm with his shot preparation.
Playmaking is another key area for scouts to monitor. His identity is still built around scoring but not necessarily creating for others. Last season, he averaged 22.0 points and 3.8 assists per game. But he does show encouraging passing IQ as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and I’d expect him to develop enough teammate creation skill to look like a full-time point guard by his draft year in 2024.
The 2023 recruiting class ultimately has a handful of big-name guards, including social media celebrity Mikey Williams and NC State commit Robert Dillingham, one of the stars of USA's U16 team over the summer.
Williams possesses more athleticism and flash, but Wagner has more substance. He gets the edge in efficiency, style, decision-making and versatility. Dillingham has soared on scouting radars thanks to exciting handles for creation, quickness and shot-making. But Wagner—four months younger than Dillingham—has a more NBA-projectable frame than Dillingham's 6'1", 160-pound body.
Other Prospects to Watch at Hoophall East
Dereck Lively II, Westtown, Senior C (Duke)
Lively figures to arrive at Duke next fall as a projected 2023 lottery pick. The 7'2" big man soared up recruiting rankings with a mix of physical tools and developing shooting range that the NBA values. Scouts had a rare opportunity to see him live over the summer at Peach Jam, where he and Jalen Duren led Team Final to a championship.
Mookie Cook, AZ Compass, Junior SF/PF
At 6'7", 200 pounds, Cook has an NBA-grade physical profile and athletic ability. He can finish and defend, and shows signs of shot-making skill. He deserves an early spot on watch lists for NBA scouts tracking high school prospects.
Chance Westry, AZ Compass, Senior SG (Auburn)
Westry could start moving up recruiting rankings based on his early NIBC play and performances last week at the City of Palms Classic. He offers the most versatility on an AZ Compass squad that already has a pair of outstanding ball-handlers in Kylan Boswell and Dylan Andrews.
Kylan Boswell, AZ Compass, Junior PG
Boswell played a key role for USA's U16 gold-medal team over the summer. He’s not an explosive athlete, but his pressure defense, passing and shot-making skills and a mature feel for the game make him a must-see prospect.
Aaron Bradshaw, Camden, Junior C
We counted seven blocks for Bradshaw against Roselle Catholic last week. At 7'0", his length around the basket is overwhelming at the high school level. He's less involved offensively, but his perimeter comfortability and finishing tools should make an impact at the college level.
Simeon Wilcher, Roselle Catholic, Junior PG (North Carolina)
Wilcher had a terrific showing last week against Camden and Wagner, giving them trouble with his explosion, shot-making and defense. For a junior, it's easy to picture upside tied to his 6'4" frame, athleticism, creation flashes and shooting stroke.