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Top Story Lines Entering Third Nike EYBL Session

DJ Wagner's visit to the Bluegrass State will bring out Louisville and Kentucky fans in droves.

From strengthening résumés as the SI99 for 2023 looms later this year to earning offers from the country’s top colleges, story lines abound as the third live period kicks off Friday and the prestigious Nike EYBL invades Louisville.

Here are a few.

Bluegrass Battle for DJ Wagner

Expect a strong contingent at all of DJ Wagner’s games this weekend as Louisville and Kentucky fans flock to the Kentucky Exposition Center to make their presence felt for the top target in the 2023 class.

The Cards and Cats are the perceived leaders for Wagner, whose recruitment is likely to spill past the summer as more elite schools try to make up ground.

Wagner’s ties run deep on both red and blue sides: His father, Dajuan Wagner, was a former McDonald’s All-American before starring for John Calipari at Memphis and then in the NBA, and his grandfather, Milt Wagner, won an NCAA title at Louisville before going on to win an NBA title with the Lakers.

DJ Wagner

DJ Wagner has been on a dominant tear this spring with the NJ Scholars.

On Tuesday, new Cards coach Kenny Payne made a power move by hiring Milt as the program's director of player development and alumni relations.

Ironically, Calipari made the same hire back in March 2000, when he was courting Dajuan as Memphis’s new head coach.

DJ has already taken official visits to Kentucky and Memphis and unofficial visits to Temple and Villanova.

Wagner has been tight-lipped about his recruitment throughout the process, focusing more on his dominance on the hardwood.

That plan has worked out masterfully, as the 6’ 2” point guard leads the Nike EYBL in scoring, pumping in 21.3 points a game and 5.1 assists for the NJ Scholars.

Can Anyone Catch Duke?

Jon Scheyer pulled in the top recruiting class in the final SI All-American team recruiting rankings headed into Year 1 and is primed to go for the repeat in Year 2.

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The Blue Devils have the top class in 2023 early on and its contingent of versatile forwards and lethal scoring guards is headlined by star wing Mackenzie Mgbako.

This summer, Mgbako has been on a dominant tear, averaging 21 points and 8.5 rebounds a game despite playing alongside Wagner, who leads the league in scoring.

Scheyer’s trio of guards—Jared McCain, Tyrese Proctor and Caleb Foster—are all consensus top-25 prospects, as is forward Sean Stewart, who has posted impressive averages (15 points, 10.5 rebounds) all summer.

Naturally, there’s a long way to go as more stars emerge and increase their standing in the class and on the radars of coaches around the country, but, as it stands, the three teams on the Blue Devils’ heels are sworn enemy North Carolina, Arizona and Oregon.

Mackenzie Mgbako holds a basketball in-game

Mackenzie Mgbako is making a strong case for No. 1 in 2023.

Top Dog for the 2023 SI99 is Up for Grabs

We’re still more than six months away from the unveiling of the SI99 for the 2023 class, but if spring is any indication, the process of naming the player who holds down the coveted No. 1 spot will be arduous, to say the least.

As it stands, Wagner is widely regarded as the top player in the class, and he’s strengthened his case this spring leading the prestigious Nike EYBL in scoring and producing in high-profile matchups, a heavily weighted factor when considering the top prospect.

Still, his teammate with the NJ Scholars, Mgbako, has had the same level of dominance and has shown visible growth in nearly every aspect of his game from perimeter shooting to playmaking ability to agility on both ends of the floor. Another major contender at this point is Ron Holland, a 6’ 7” positionless, do-it-all prospect who checks off every box and tends to always be the most productive prospect whenever he steps onto the floor. Other players playing their way into No. 1 conversations include Robert Dillingham, G.G. Jackson, Kwame Evans Jr. and Matas Buzelis.

Reclassification Reductions

Don’t expect to see elite underclassmen reclassifying up to come to college early going forward; college coaches aren’t pushing for early entrants nearly as much with the transfer portal bursting at the seams. The logic is simple: Why take an inexperienced talent over a proven talent at the collegiate level?

A handful of players in the 2023 and ’24 classes had been open about the possibility of moving up to get to campus early, but with the NCAA transfer waiver causing a domino effect in the transfer portal, college coaches are leaning heavily toward more finished products. 

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