Syracuse Basketball: Predictions shift for 5-star recruit, top-ranked junior

Syracuse basketball (Syndication: Courier-Post)
Syracuse basketball (Syndication: Courier-Post) /

Ever since Syracuse basketball coaches offered 2023 five-star point guard D.J. Wagner last summer, I’ve kind of figured that the Orange would prove a long-shot to land the country’s consensus No. 1 junior.

I credit the ‘Cuse coaching staff for making a run at the 6-foot-3 Wagner, and a recent media report indicated that Syracuse basketball has continued to recruit him.

However, for a long time now, the buzz from national analysts and recruiting insiders pointed in the direction of blue-blood squad Kentucky for Wagner.

More recently, though, that buzz appears to be shifting to another team, which happens to be an Atlantic Coast Conference group and a fierce in-state rival of the Wildcats.

Syracuse basketball faces a supremely uphill battle to win out for five-star D.J. Wagner.

At the time of this writing, over the past week or so, I noticed seven predictions were logged in the direction of Louisville for Wagner between the 247Sports Web site and

Analyst projections for Wagner aren’t unanimous in Louisville’s favor, but the Cardinals sure do seem to have a lot of momentum with him.

Wagner recently wrapped up an All-American junior campaign for Camden High School in Camden, N.J., during the 2021-22 stanza, and he has already put up some monster numbers in AAU contests for the New Jersey Scholars Elite Basketball Club on Nike’s EYBL circuit.

Syracuse basketball offered D.J. Wagner this past August at the team’s annual Elite Camp. Per several reports, Orange coaches have watched Wagner of late at a Camden High School game as well as a New Jersey Scholars Elite Basketball Club encounter during a recent NCAA live period.

According to recruiting services, I’m counting six scholarship offers for Wagner at this juncture, and they’re from the ‘Cuse, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Villanova and Temple. Auburn has reportedly shown interest in Wagner, too.

Last month, Kenny Payne was named the head coach at Louisville, replacing Chris Mack, who parted ways with the Cardinals in late January.

A member of Louisville’s 1986 NCAA championship team as a freshman, Payne most recently served as an assistant coach with the NBA’s New York Knicks.

Payne, though, has deep roots as a college assistant coach, spending 15 years between Oregon and Kentucky. He is known as an ace recruiter, and it’s no surprise to me that he’s seemingly in good shape with Wagner.

In a couple of recent interviews, Wagner has said that he’s open to all opportunities, he doesn’t have a timeline for making a collegiate choice, and he doesn’t have any particular set of schools in mind, at least for now.

That being said, it does look like his recruitment could ultimately boil down to Kentucky and Louisville.

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