The greatest high school basketball player in New Jersey history hasn’t disappeared, he’s just dropping buckets in the Heritage Hoops Summer League rather than on an NBA hardwood. Dajuan Wagner‘s famous high school career overshadows the health problems that fizzled any dreams of becoming a star on the professional level.
After averaging 42.5 points per game during his senior year at Camden High School while dropping 100 points in a game and scoring more points in his high school career than anyone in New Jersey history, he showed that he could score against the best high school players in the country by dropping 25 in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Coach John Calipari brought him to his Memphis squad for a year, and then famously revoked his scholarship before his sophomore season, forcing him to declare for the NBA Draft. He was taken 6th overall in the 2002 Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a rookie season that saw him average 13.4 points per game on 36.9 percent shooting in 47 games where he saw action and 24 starts, he only started four more games for the rest of his career.
Injuries and health problems waylaid such a strong beginning to Wagner’s basketball odyssey. A diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis led to a consultation with then-Knicks coach Larry Brown, who put him in touch with a colon expert in New York. In October of 2005, Wagner had his colon removed at Mount Sinai Hospital.
A year later, the Warriors signed him to a two-year, $1.6 million contract, and his comeback appeared complete, but he only played one game for the Warriors before they bought out his contract. He’s since played in Poland before popping up in this Heritage Hoops Summer League clip this weekend.
Just to give readers who don’t remember Wagner an idea of how talented he was in high school, High School Hoops ranked him just ahead of a little-known guy named LeBron James as the greatest high school shooting guards of the last 10 years. Yeah, he was that good. He can still put the ball in the hoop though, even at the age of 30.
If his body didn’t break down, could he have been a good player in the NBA?
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