Basketball is a Passion Three Generations in the Making for Dajuan Wagner Jr.
With an impressive pedigree to match a strong work ethic, Dajuan Wagner Jr. headed into his second USA Basketball minicamp this weekend determined to grow and develop a flourishing skillset.
“I want to become a better player,” he said. “I just want to show that I can be a good teammate, a hard worker and a good learner.”
Combining an innate ability to drive to the basket with a talented touch on the outside shot, Wagner said he likes to “attack,” but also has a desire to help make his teammates better.
“I like to see everyone around me succeed,” he said. “I know how hard they work.”
Just 14 years of age, Wagner was one of four 2023 prospects at the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team July minicamp, and will be one of five again at the team’s minicamp taking place Oct. 11-13 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is a testament to the potential of the Camden, New Jersey, resident, who is just three years removed from giving up on football to devote his passion fully to basketball.
“Once I got to a certain age, I just started to like basketball more,” he said.
Of course, life on the hardcourt is nothing new to Wagner. His father, Dajuan Wagner Sr., was a star player for the University of Memphis and his grandfather, Milt Wagner, won a national championship at the University of Louisville. Both previous generations of Wagner men played professionally in the NBA.
Those that have seen all three generations of Wagners play the game have varying opinions as to whose game the latest incarnation most closely resembles, according to the youngest Wagner.
“Some people do say I play like my dad,” Dajuan Jr. said. “My dad trained me, he taught me to always play hard at all times. I use some of his moves.”
While Wagner is just a few months into his freshman year at high school, many eyes are on him to see whether he can live up to or even surpass the achievements of dad and granddad.
There are some big shoes to fill.Milt Wagner was part of championship teams at the state, collegiate and professional levels through the 70s and 80s. Dajuan Sr. won a New Jersey high school championship while setting a state scoring record of 3,462 points from 1997-2000 before leading Memphis to a championship at the 2002 NIT, in which he won MVP.
Both played guard, as Dajuan Jr. does, making it an easy temptation to compare and contrast the three generations. But at the start of his own high school career, the newest Wagner on the scene said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure to live up to any comparisons.
“I don’t really feel any expectations or anything special like that,” he said. “It’s an honor to play after them, and I hope it can help me be a better player.”
Both his father and mother, Syreeta Brittingham, attended the July USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp. Brittingham will also be in attendance this time around.
“It was a good experience,” Brittingham said. “It definitely made me proud to see him out there.”
The proud mother noted that her son’s skills go far beyond the basketball court. Wagner also is a talented student, earning straight A’s in the classroom while showing particular aptitude in, and enjoyment for, mathematics.
The middle of three siblings, Wagner spends a lot of time with his extended family when not on court or in class.
“He’s an awesome kid,” Brittingham said. “He’s kindhearted and goofy. He’s a great brother and a good friend.”
Brittingham noted that, “basketball is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle” to Wagner, and that nary a day passes in which her son doesn’t find his way to the gym.
“It’s been that way since he was 4,” she said.
When discussing how he is able to juggle the demands of excellence in the classroom and on the basketball court, he speaks with the simple elegance of a skilled tradesman: “I just go about it every day and make sure I get my work done.”
Already one of New Jersey’s top high school prospects, Wagner is ready for the challenges of his second minicamp, as well as all that is to come after that.
“I love basketball, I love being competitive, and I want to become a better player,” he said. “I’m doing something I love to do every day.”