D.J. Wagner was a celebrated arrival for Kentucky basketball. Now, he’s found a new school.

D.J. Wagner, the most celebrated prospect from UK basketball’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class, has found a new college basketball home.

On Sunday night, it was reported that Wagner — a 6-foot-4 guard from New Jersey — would be transferring to Arkansas after spending one season at Kentucky playing for former UK coach John Calipari.

In joining the Razorbacks, Wagner will also join a litany of ex-Wildcats and ex-Kentucky recruits who have stuck with Calipari as he went from Lexington to Fayetteville.

From last season’s Kentucky squad, Wagner joins Zvonimir Ivisic and Adou Thiero at Arkansas. Former class of 2024 UK basketball recruits Boogie Fland, Karter Knox and Billy Richmond will all be Hogs next season, too.

Wagner, who was UK’s starting point guard for the 2023-24 season, entered the NCAA transfer portal on April 15. That move came almost a week after Calipari left UK to become the new head coach at Arkansas, and less than 24 hours after the Wildcats introduced Mark Pope as the program’s new head coach.

Pope — the former head coach at BYU and Utah Valley and a key member of Kentucky’s 1996 NCAA championship team — was expected to meet with Wagner after he assumed his new role.

May 1 was the deadline for college basketball players (including graduate transfers) to enter the transfer portal. The early-entry deadline for the 2024 NBA draft has also already passed. Players who entered the draft with remaining NCAA eligibility have until Wednesday to remove their names from consideration and return to school.

When Wagner committed to Calipari and the Wildcats in November 2022, it was cause for celebration. Wagner spent much of his high school career as the top-ranked player in the 2023 recruiting class: Wagner was ultimately ranked as the No. 6 overall player in last year’s recruiting group, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Wagner’s decision to come to Kentucky was a major recruiting coup for Calipari, who also coached Wagner’s father, Dajuan, at Memphis. D.J. Wagner is also the grandson of former Louisville star Milt Wagner, who Calipari hired onto his basketball staff at Memphis during Dajuan’s playing days.

In his only college basketball season in Lexington, Wagner averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per game. He played in 29 games and started 28 of those contests.

Wagner was known for his point-of-attack, on-ball defense at UK. His offensive production was streaky for the Wildcats during the 2023-24 season. He scored 0 points and went 0-for-5 shooting from the field in Kentucky’s opening round NCAA Tournament loss to Oakland.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Wagner ranked as the No. 35 overall player in the NCAA transfer portal, as of Sunday night.

D.J. Wagner, a celebrated prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, spent just one season with Kentucky basketball.
D.J. Wagner, a celebrated prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, spent just one season with Kentucky basketball.

Mark Pope constructs his first Kentucky basketball roster

Mark Pope is building his first UK basketball roster from scratch.

Along with Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw (Ohio State), Jordan Burks (Georgetown), Joey Hart (Ball State), Zvonimir Ivisic (Arkansas) and Adou Thiero (Arkansas) are players from the 2023-24 Kentucky squad that will transfer to new schools. Additionally, Ugonna Onyenso is still in the NCAA transfer portal.

Also from last season’s team, Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards and Reed Sheppard have declared for the 2024 NBA draft. Tre Mitchell and Antonio Reeves have exhausted their college eligibility.

Five of the six players that Calipari had lined up as part of Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class decommitted from the UK program.

Three of these players — Boogie Fland, Karter Knox and Billy Richmond — have announced they will be going to Arkansas to play for Calipari. Somto Cyril will be going to Georgia and Jayden Quaintance will be going to Arizona State.

In-state guard Travis Perry, the all-time leading scorer in Kentucky high school boys basketball history, is the only recruit who will remain committed to UK and play for Pope.

Perry is one of 11 known players on Pope’s first Kentucky basketball roster for next season.

The others are first-year guards Collin Chandler (a former BYU signee) and Trent Noah (a standout at Harlan County and a former South Carolina signee), third-year guard Otega Oweh (who previously played two seasons at Oklahoma), fourth-year forward Ansley Almonor (who previously played three seasons at Fairleigh Dickinson), fifth-year guards Koby Brea (who previously played four seasons at Dayton), Lamont Butler (who previously played four seasons at San Diego State) and Kerr Kriisa (who previously played at Arizona and West Virginia), fifth-year forward Amari Williams (who previously played four seasons at Drexel), fifth-year forward Andrew Carr (who previously played two seasons each at Delaware and Wake Forest) and second-year center Brandon Garrison (who played last season at Oklahoma State).

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