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Dajuan Wagner: What Happened To The Former NBA Lottery Pick

A picture of a Spalding NBA basketball.

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The legend of Dajuan Wagner came about as quickly as it left. Once considered the next rising star in the NBA, the former high school/college star seemed to vanish into thin air.

With Wagner's playing days now fading into the rearview, a glaring question remains: What happened to the former New Jersey basketball legend? Where is Dajuan Wagner now?

To get there, you have to first look at his stellar early career.

The rise

Bursting onto the basketball scene in Camden, New Jersey, Wagner took the entire state by storm. Everywhere the 6-foot-2 high school point guard laced up his kicks, a packed-out gym was there to get a peek. Nicknamed "The Messiah," his talents became almost mythical around the area -- especially after he posted a mind-boggling 100-point game.

The astounding stat line was recorded during Wagner's senior season with Camden High School in 2001. Shooting 42-60 from the field, including 10 three pointers (a school record), he accomplished the incredible feat en route to a 157-67 victory over Gloucester Township Technical School.

With this triple-digit scoring game, the star guard became just the 13th player in high school basketball history to log more than 100 points in a single game.

Through his senior year, Wagner averaged a staggering 42.5 points per game and finished his career with the Panthers at 3,462 total points -- a record that still stands today.

The Camden native is widely considered the greatest high school basketball player in New Jersey history.

With this track record, of course Wagner was one of the most highly-sought after recruits in the nation. After rumors swirled that he may forgo college and go straight to the NBA, the top-tier player ultimately decided to join a John Calipari's squad in Memphis. Wagner's father, Milt, a former Louisville star and NBA guard, helped to recruit him as a member of Calipari's assistant staff.

Old Dominion v Memphis

(Photo by Chris Stanford/Getty Images)

Through one year in college with the Tigers, the pure scorer averaged a team-high 21.2 ppg. As many expected he would, the freshman quickly turned his attention towards the professional ranks.

The fall

With the No. 6 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, a struggling Cleveland Cavaliers organization was on the hunt for its savior -- and all signs indicated that Wagner was the man for the job.

The lottery pick showed some solid promise in his rookie season, averaging 13.4 ppg. Flashes of his high school/college greatness were still readily apparent.

Moving forward though, those flashes began to fade.

Marred by injuries and health issues, Wagner's career took a nosedive after his debut season. After playing in just 11 games in 2004-05 and averaging a career-low 4.0 ppg, he was diagnosed with a severe health condition called ulcerative colitis. Hospitalized with the issue, Wagner underwent surgery to remove half of his colon at Mount Sinai Hospital in October, 2005.

While many thought this would be the end of his NBA career, he did work to make a comeback as he recovered for the surgery. In 2006, the recovering athlete signed a two-year $1.6 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. But, after playing in just one more NBA game, the franchise opted to buy out his contract -- marking the end to his career in the league.

Wagner wasn't ready to give up his hoop dreams just yet though.

In 2007, he went overseas after signing a one-year deal with a professional team in Poland. Averaging 8.3 points through just six games, he returned to New Jersey after suffered a couple more injuries.

Where is Dajuan Wagner now?

Now back in his hometown of Camden, Wagner lives a much more quiet life than he once did. As a partial owner of Adrenaline Sports Performance Center in Cherry Hill, NJ, the former superstar has now faded into the background.

Instead of all eyes being on him as the next big thing, the attention has now turned to Dajuan's son, DJ.

Dajuan Wagner Jr. (DJ), is already making a name for himself as a high school star -- earning a New Jersey Boys Basketball Player of the Year award in 2020-21. As a five-star recruit, the 6-foot-5 sophomore is currently ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2023 class, per 247Sports composite rankings.

Suiting up in the Panthers' purple and gold, DJ is third in a line of great Wagners to grace the court at Camden High School.

Dajuan and his father, Milt, both agree -- DJ is the best Wagner to come so far.

“DJ is [better than me] and I have no problem saying that,” Dajuan said, via PhillyVoice. “Me and Syreeta [Brittingham] (Dujuan's wife) want to make sure he’s having fun. That’s the biggest priority. DJ will be better than both me and my dad, and if he isn’t, we haven’t done our jobs. My dad made sure I was better than him, and I’m making sure DJ is better than me."

While it's still early in his recruiting process, many predict DJ will end up committing to Calipari, Dujuan's old coach, at Kentucky.

A few years ago, Wagner was still looking to make an NBA comeback -- training with his godfather and well-connected league advisor William Wesley. Now 38 years old, it seems that ship has officially sailed.

Even though he may never get a shot to relive his hoop dreams again, Wagner's basketball legacy will be forever enshrined in New Jersey history -- and carried on by the play of his son.