Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
D.J. Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw ‘absolutely’ considered Louisville, Kenny Payne will ‘turn it around’: Pervis Ellison
By ADAM ZAGORIAPHILADELPHIA — For a while after Kenny Payne was hired as the Louisville head coach last spring, the narrative in recruiting circles was that D.J. Wagner, the No. 1 prospect in 2023, would follow him there.
Maybe his Camden High School teammate Aaron Bradshaw, the 7-foot-2 big man now ranked No. 4 in his class by ESPN, would join the Cardinals,too.
Those voices grew louder after Payne named his former teammate Milt Wagner, D.J.’s grandfather, as Director of Player Development and Alumni Relations last May.
In November, Wagner committed to Kentucky, joining Bradshaw and completingJohn Calipari’s No. 1-ranked class. Yet former Louisville star Pervis Ellison said the Camden duo gave Louisville serious consideration.
“Oh, absolutely,” Ellison, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, said Saturday when Camden edged Imhotep Charter (PA) thanks to Wagner scoring 18 of his game-best 22 in the second half.
“I think it was a tough decision for both those guys. But in the end I think they made the right decisions for what they were looking for individually but there’s no question that coach Payne is going to always be in line to get top recruits,” Ellison added.
It’s worth noting that in October Wagner signed a mega-NIL deal with Nike, which also sponsors Kentucky, while Louisville is an Adidas school.
Louisville, meantime, has had a dreadful season under Payne. They are 2-19, 0-10 in the ACC.
“Coach Payne said it’s going to be a process and it is, but I got all the confidence in the world in coach Payne,” Ellison said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.