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Dajuan Wagner was the top high school basketball player in 2001. He averaged 42.5 points per game and scored 100 points in a single game. Allen Iverson, who was currently leading the NBA in scoring, was so impressed he had to take a trip to Camden, New Jersey to see for himself.
Wagner would go on to average 21 points a game at Memphis for John Calipari and lead them to an NIT Championship. Wagner turned pro and was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft.
So why do so few people know about this legend? His NBA career didn’t exactly pan out, mostly due to some injuries and personal events. Let’s get into it.
Wagner's High School Dominance
Dajuan Wagner dominated every single game of his New Jersey high school basketball career. He scored 80 points in one game as a junior and 100 in a game as a senior. In his senior season, he averaged 42.5 points a game. Wagner accomplished all of this in a league where the games are only 32 minutes long; that’s eight-minute quarters. An NBA game is 48 minutes long and college games are 40 minutes.
This means Wagner must’ve scored over three points a minute. If that doesn’t sound that impressive to you, think of it like this. If James Harden scored at the same rate Wagner did in his 100-point game, he would score 150 points in a regulation NBA game.
Wagner would be named USA Today’s High School Player of the Year (2001), Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2001), and sign with John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers as the #1 overall recruit in his class. Keep in mind, at this point in time, players could still go from high school to the NBA.
Check out the highlights from his 100-point game. I know it's hard to believe, but this video has every one of his buckets from that game.
Dajuan Wagner 100 Point Game Highlights
Dajuan Wagner Goes Memphis
Dajuan’s father, Milt Wagner, was the main reason Dajuan made the decision to attend Memphis. Milt, a retired NBA player, thought that Dajuan’s game needed to be refined and polished in college and he thought that Calipari was the man for the job.
Wagner averaged 21.2 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.5 rebounds in his only season at Memphis. Wagner would lead the Tigers to a NIT championship that year. Wagner was named NIT MVP and declared for the draft shortly after, but not without some extra motivation.
Wagner wanted to return for his sophomore season, but head coach John Calipari knew Wagner had lottery pick talent and wouldn’t let him take the risk. Calipari called Wagner into his office and ripped up his scholarship right in front of him. Sure enough, Wagner was off to the NBA.
Dajuan Wagner College Highlights
Dajuan Wagner Takes the NBA
Wagner was drafted sixth overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Calipari’s “encouragement” to turn pro put a $7.4 million rookie deal in Wagner’s pockets. Wagner would average 13.4 points a game as a rookie, but both his minutes and production would steadily decrease over the next three seasons.
Wagner was out of the league, came back briefly with the Golden State Warriors (appeared in only 1 game), and eventually signed a contract in the newly formed “AmeriLeague.” AmeriLeague would turn out to be a sham and the founder, Glendon Alexander, was exposed as a con man with multiple prior convictions for fraud. Alexander had started the league under a fake name, so he could be trusted.
Wagner’s NBA career turned out to be a disappointment in comparison to his amateur career in the NCAA and New Jersey Prep. While you can’t find a singular reason for this, Wagner had some serious health and personal issues during his career.
He did have a tough career, but check out his highlights from his career high 33 points against the Toronto Raptors.
Dajuan Wagner Scores 33 Points In NBA Game vs. Toronto Raptors
What Happened to Dajuan Wagner?
During his rookie year, Dajuan Wagner’s step-father, Leonard “Pooh” Paulk, was standing trial. Paulk was accused of drug trafficking and would eventually be pegged as a kingpin of Camden, New Jersey. Paulk was sentenced to life in prison. The judge’s comments on the harsh penalty revolved around the idea that Paulk’s business enabled and encouraged violence and crime.
While Wagner had to battle many injuries, he also suffered from a disease known as ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis comes from inflammation and ulcers in the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea mixed with blood, weight loss, and anemia. Wagner would eventually have half his colon removed.
Needless to say, those are tough conditions for anyone to operate under, especially a 20-year-old. Overall, Wagner will still be remembered as one of the best hoopers to ever lace 'em up.
Comment any other players you think have crazy stories like Wagner.