Dajuan Wagner Rumors

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Dajuan Wagner
Dajuan Wagner
Position: None
Born: 02/04/83
Height: 6-3 / 1.91
Weight:199 lbs. / 90.7 kg.
Dajuan now works out 5 days a week he works out at adrenaline sports performance in Cherry Hill N.J. With his trainer Chad Hallett and guy Ikpah Hallett, who trains college and pro athletes, says Wagner is almost ready to return to the NBA. Wagner is working hard to get all of his strength back but he never lost his ability to shoot, it’s a gift he was born with. “Basketball always came easy to me it’s just like riding a bike,” he told FOX 29.
He’s taking it slow. He’s played limited minutes in two other ABA games and doesn’t know how much longer he’ll compete before moving on to a higher level. He’s hoping to sign with a team overseas next summer, possibly in Europe or Puerto Rico, and then potentially play in the NBA Development League. “I ain’t chasing (the NBA),” Wagner said. “It don’t matter. But if the chance comes, I’ll look into it and see.”
Ikpah has spent four days each week with Wagner at a gym Wagner owns in Cherry Hill, N.J. At first, Wagner wasn’t in shape and could only last 15 minutes, but the sessions soon expanded to more than an hour. Wagner also trains with strength and conditioning coach Chad Hallett. He weighs 205 pounds, five more than during his NBA days. “This is the best I’ve seen him,” said Hallett, who has trained Wagner off and on for the past five years. “He’s definitely determined, the most determined guy I’ve ever seen.”
Dajuan Wagner says he never frets over the misfortune that followed him once he left Camden High School as perhaps the best basketball player in New Jersey history. From the stomach aches during his one year at the University of Memphis – omens of a life-threatening condition that would require radical surgery – to the bladder infection to the twice-torn knee cartilage to the inflamed liver and pancreas to the ankle ailments to the hip injury, Wagner sometimes seemed as cursed in his post-scholastic career as he was blessed during his prime time with the Panthers. “I’m never bitter,” Wagner said. “I’m good. There was nothing I could do about it. “But I do think about it. I think about it a lot.”
Lately, Wagner has done more than wonder about what might have happened had he stayed healthy. He has committed to an intensive workout program that he hopes will lead to a resurrection of his career at the age of 31. A chiseled 200 pounds, the 6-foot-2 Wagner believes he has begun to regain the explosive athletic ability that was as much the source of his success in the sport as his jump shot, ballhandling and court sense.
Although he still ponders making a second comeback—“I’m gonna see how I feel this summer because I’m starting to feel good”—at 31, he doesn’t come off as delusional and seems comfortable in his new role. Juanny is still in Camden these days (he resides in a well-heeled nearby suburb) but not as a cautionary tale; the prodigal son is giving back to Camden High by trying to help the basketball team’s tradition thrive once again.
“Juanny’s happy, he’s matured a lot and when you go through certain things in life, you learn, no matter what. If it’s a good thing, you learn from it. If it’s a bad thing, you learn from it, and he’s learned from his life,” Boozer says. “Of course he’s gonna have basketball. It’s in his blood. He’s gonna be around basketball his entire life and I’m proud of him. A lot of people, they have one thing on their mind. They want to do one thing and if I don’t make that one thing, some people crumble and he didn’t, and I’m proud of him for that.”
While he’s nowhere close to bitter about how things ended up, it’s only natural that Wagner, like most people who saw him play, thinks about what could have been. “LeBron wouldn’t have had to leave Cleveland. If I would have stayed healthy, he wouldn’t have had to leave. If I was healthy from the beginning, hell no. With Boozer, with Z [Zydrunas Ilgauskas], nah,” he says, recalling a young and talented—if not successful—Cavs team. “We could have done some things.”
So here we are, 7 years after his “pro days,” and enjoying a new Ballin365 Mixtape showcasing Dajuan Wagner playing in the Heritage Hoops Basketball League. The video starts off with Wagner telling a defender, ”Switch off me you feel me, cause i’m a keep attacking you. I’m a tough motherfucker,” then proceeds to show us 3 minutes of Wagner burying pull up jumpers and 3 pointers in the face of every person in the gym that tried to guard him.
The story, not surprisingly, has taken a life of its own over the years. There was the sniping between the coaches and a halftime fight among players – but most of all it just added to the high school legend of Dajuan Wagner. Wagner scored exactly 100 points for Camden High in a 157-67 win over visiting Camden County Tech on Jan. 16, 2001. What was bizarre was that it wasn’t even the highest individual scoring effort of the day. Cedric Hensley, of Heritage Christian Academy in Texas, dropped 101 points in a 178-29 rout of Houston’s Baniff School on the same day.
Now 29, Wagner, who last appeared in an NBA game in 2007 for the Golden State Warriors, says he is hoping to make a comeback after suffering various health problems the last few years. He looks in good shape and frequently attends Camden games. Wagner admits that rarely a week goes by when somebody doesn’t mention that 100-point game to him. “At the time I didn’t think it was as big a deal – but, as the years go by, I realize how much interest there is in that game,” Wagner said earlier this week.
Porter thinks Wagner could be ready for the 2012-13 NBA season. “It’s a matter of getting the legs back to game shape,” he says. “His shot is incredible. That hasn’t changed at all. He can shoot from pretty much anywhere. It’s almost surreal to watch.” The ability to score, to find his shots, has never been the issue with Wagner. It’s his health that has. “If he said tomorrow, ‘I am playing,’ there would be such a buzz. The whole league would be abuzz,” the NBA scout says. “Can he play? Is he healthy? Those are the million-dollar questions.” The scout, who asked not to be identified, says Wagner needs to showcase his talents in competitive games, either in Europe or the NBA Development League. One of the advantages of not having played all these years, the scout says, is Wagner’s body hasn’t taken NBA-style abuse for years. “If he’s in good shape and he’s healthy, then go show us. The league is dying for talent,” the scout said. “If Dajuan Wagner is a guy who came off your bench and gave you 11 or 12 points, he could fit anywhere.”
I approached him at halftime, while his son went to the concession stand. If Wagner didn’t want to talk, he didn’t act like it. He was soft-spoken and polite, shy even. He told me he’s on the court almost every day, alone in empty gyms and or playing in pickup games that have become profoundly meaningful to him. His skills, his dead-on radar for the basket, haven’t left, but he did say he needs time to feel right before he thinks about coming back. He needs to be confident that his body can do what it once did without question. “My goal is to be out there playing basketball someday,” he says. “No one’s ever had the problems I’ve had and come back. I’m getting there. This is the best I’ve ever felt in a long, long time. People think I’m out there just sitting around, but I’m not.”
Barclay said he was trying to set something up for me, but I got the feeling that Wagner would avoid an interview if he could. Finally, after weeks of failed attempts and false leads, after numerous pleas with Barclay to help me out, he offered a simple suggestion: “Why don’t you just go the game today?” he said. “That’s the best place to catch him.” If you want to find Dajuan Wagner, go to a Camden basketball game. Duh.
This fall, I started trying to reach out to Wagner, with no luck. He didn’t respond to phone calls or letters. When I visited his home in West Deptford, it was dark and empty-looking. If not for the dog barking inside, I would have thought no one lived there. Arthur “OG” Barclay, Wagner’s best friend and former teammate at Camden and Memphis, was hard to reach too. He eventually told me that Wagner was shy, that years of national media coverage and life in the NBA hadn’t changed that. Wagner made about $10.7 million from his rookie contract in Cleveland and smaller but still sizable sums from Golden State and the Polish team. By all accounts, he doesn’t live extravagantly. There are no statues on his lawn in West Deptford, no indoor basketball court with his initials painted on it. He does have a net in the driveway.
Wagner is now 28, at a point in his life when many in South Jersey once believed he’d have a trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame all but locked up. But Wagner wasn’t in town on an East Coast road trip. He didn’t have a few games off from playing with the Cavaliers, or the Warriors, or anybody else. In fact, it’s been more than 5 years since he’s played in the NBA. “It’s hard to tell a 28-year-old that you’re at the end of your career,” says his father, Milt, now an assistant coach at Auburn. “He hasn’t even hit his prime yet.” That’s the thing about Wagner, though. He never said it was over. Not on Facebook or Twitter. Not on YouTube. Not even to the local newspapers. He didn’t hang it up so much as he just disappeared. That’s why I was at a high school basketball game in Cherry Hill on a crappy Tuesday afternoon, staring at him from across the gym. After years of hearing rumors about Dajuan Wagner, after reams of unreturned letters, of unaswered phone calls and unopened doors, I had found him at a basketball game. If it was truly over, I wanted to hear him say it.
The aches and pains in his stomach started at Memphis — a dull throbbing that kept him awake. Wagner thought it was just something he ate, but eventually discovered it was far worse. Wagner was selected by Cleveland in the 2002 NBA Draft, but from the start he was rarely healthy. He missed his first 14 games with a bladder infection, and later in his rookie season he tore cartilage in his right knee. The next two years were a series of setbacks: dehydration, an inflamed liver and pancreas, a second right knee surgery, a sprained ankle. In three injury-riddled seasons with the Cavs, Wagner played in 102 of 246 games.
Wagner is hesitant to have his son photographed for a newspaper story, saying he wants him to grow up without the burden of the athletic pressure he felt as the son of Milt Wagner, a Camden legend in his own right. Neither his longtime agent, Leon Rose, nor his college coach, John Calipari, returned messages seeking comment for this story, and Wagner declines to provide contact information for his mother and five sisters. And when Dajuan Jr.’s mother is approached and asked to chat, she declines. Wagner first has to give the okay, she says. “I just don’t like the attention,” Wagner said. “I could never get used to it.”
Ten years ago, Dajuan Wagner was the biggest name in high school basketball as he finished up a career at Camden High. The scoring machine once netted 100 points in a game and averaged an unthinkable 42 for an entire season. Around town, people christened him the basketball Messiah. But today, the No. 6 pick of the 2002 NBA Draft is back where it all started, watching youth league games at an elementary school in relative anonymity. The spotlight that followed Wagner has faded, but it’s hard to tell whether he cares. “Juanny doesn’t express his feelings like that,” said Arthur Barclay, Wagner’s best friend and a former high school and college teammate. “He keeps a lot of it inside. Just in the 15 years I’ve known him, if I was to say, ‘Hey Juanny, how you doing?’ He’d just say, ‘I’m all right.’”