Justin Edwards and DJ Wagner help Team USA to victory at Nike Hoop Summit

A pair of Kentucky men’s basketball signees took part Saturday night in one of the most prestigious international basketball events of the year, and helped USA Basketball to a close win in the process.

Incoming UK freshmen Justin Edwards and DJ Wagner both reached double figures in scoring as Team USA defeated Team World 90-84 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Edwards (10 points and five rebounds) and Wagner (10 points, four rebounds, one assist and one block) were two of six USA players who scored 10 or more points in the game.

Wagner (24:54 of game action) played the second-most minutes of anyone on the USA roster. Edwards also logged significant playing time (14:11) in the contest.

Edwards and Wagner both started for Team USA.

Saturday night’s showcase event wrapped up a whirlwind few weeks for the pair.

Both players were McDonald’s All-Americans (along with fellow UK signees Aaron Bradshaw and Reed Sheppard) and took part in McDonald’s All-American Game festivities in late March in Houston.

Wagner was named co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game after scoring all 19 of his points in the second half.

Just before that event, Edwards led his high school team — Imhotep Institute in Philadelphia — to a second straight Pennsylvania state championship.

In between the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Nike Hoop Summit, Wagner took part in The Throne, a single-elimination, March Madness-style tournament featuring several high-profile high school basketball players in Atlanta.

The inclusion of both Edwards and Wagner in the Nike Hoop Summit might also be viewed as a sign of things to come for their burgeoning basketball careers.

Of the 35 players from the Nike Hoop Summit that have gone on to play in the NBA All-Star Game, five are ex-Cats: DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns and John Wall.

Of course, plenty of NBA personnel were also on hand this week in Portland to get an up-close look at Edwards and Wagner, who are both projected as lottery picks in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Camden (N.J.) High School senior guard and Kentucky men’s basketball 2023 signee DJ Wagner (21) dribbles the ball against Combine Academy (N.C.) during a game at the William Exum Center at Kentucky State University in Frankfort on Feb. 3.

Camden (N.J.) High School senior guard and Kentucky men’s basketball 2023 signee DJ Wagner (21) dribbles the ball against Combine Academy (N.C.) during a game at the William Exum Center at Kentucky State University in Frankfort on Feb. 3.

Former Kentucky recruits, future SEC stars impress at Nike Hoop Summit

Plenty of prep basketball stars who were formerly targeted by the Kentucky program, and those who might soon be playing against the Wildcats, also had strong showings at the Nike Hoop Summit.

Former UK recruit Ron Holland — a Texas signee — had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead all American players in both categories.

The still-uncommitted Bronny James — the son of NBA star LeBron James — had 11 points and four rebounds for Team USA, including a pair of free throws to ice the game late, with his father watching courtside.

On Team World, Mackenzie Mgbako — a Duke signee — had 22 points to lead all players. Andrej Stojakovic — a Stanford signee and the son of former NBA champion Peja Stojakovic — had 12 points and four rebounds.

Future Auburn Tiger Aden Holloway had 15 points, five rebounds and three assists for Team World. Holloway played nearly 35 minutes in the game, the most by any player.

Way-too-early college basketball rankings for 2023-24 season are here. Where is Kentucky?

Cason Wallace declares for NBA Draft. What’s next for Kentucky at the point guard spot?

Keep up with Kentucky basketball: Key dates to know for the Wildcats’ busy 2023 offseason

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