LEXINGTON, Ky – Towards the end of the first game in which the Nike EYBL stopped over the weekend, DJ Wagner blazed down the court with a basketball, switching hands and directions, befuddling the defender and finishing the flash sequence with a beautiful left- layup handed in the basket.
Gathered just a few yards away and watching intently there were some of the greatest basketball players representing the University of Louisville. Among them: Pervis Ellison and Darrell Griffith, MVPs of two Cardinals national title teams in the 1980s. The dynamic duo stood next to fellow U of the great L Milt Wagner, and – at the conclusion of their play – they excitedly turned in their direction, offering together, whoop congratulatory approval.
Wagner grinned and shook his head, radiantly proud in front of his lifelong friends.
Now, anyone who cares knows that DJ Wagner – who has long been the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class – is the grandson of Milt Wagner, one of the greatest performers in Louisville history.
And if anyone is still asking just how many Cardinals want young Wagner to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, they have a crystal clear answer at the end of the weekend.
A few days before the Nike show came to town, Milt Wagner was introduced as the newest staff member under new Louisville head coach Kenny Payne, a longtime friend and former college teammate. Several others who played alongside Payne and Wagner at U of L were at the opening of EYBL DJ Friday morning, including Ellison, program director for Wagner’s younger New Jersey Scholars team.
For her, this was a special scene.
“This is very good, man,” Ellison told the Herald-Leader. “It’s just the fact that everyone is supportive and behind Kenny. University – I have to give him credit, because he made a very good choice to choose him as a coach to get this program back. And I know he’s going to do a really good job, because he will get support from the city, former players – everyone is behind them.
Payne was not allowed at the Kentucky Exposition Center over the weekend, since this session of the Nike game did not fall within any of the NCAA-approved evaluation periods. Sometimes, it seems like almost everyone is associated with Louisville basketball.
There was plenty of red and black on the stands to see Wagner play, lots of dunking bird shirts and a U -hat from L. And local legends came out in force.
swipe to the next page© 2022 Lexington Herald-Leader. Visit kentucky.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.