What D.J. Wagner’s injury means for Kentucky backcourt

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky guard D.J. Wagner suffered an injury in the first half of the team’s game against Miami on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

Wagner, a freshman, drove to the basket and went down hard on a foul by Hurricanes guard Wooga Poplar with 4:22 left in the half. He remained in the game to shoot his two free throws before checking out moments later. Wagner then went into the locker room. He did not return before halftime.

Wagner returned before the second half began, working out on a courtside exercise bike. He then went back to the locker room shortly after the second half started.

At the time of his injury, Wagner had scored five points (on 1-of-3 shooting) to go along with an assist and a block in 10 minutes.

After the game, a 95-73 win for the Wildcats, UK coach John Calipari said Wagner had an ankle injury.

‘(The medical staff) said he wasn’t going to come back,’ Calipari said. ‘So we were really short-handed.’

Fellow freshman Justin Edwards said Wagner was upbeat afterward.

‘He’s good. I know D.J. personally. We grew up together,’ Edwards said. ‘He was telling me he was good. … He was laughing and stuff when we walked in there (after the game).’

What D.J. Wagner injury means for UK backcourt

The positive news for the Wildcats is they’re far deeper in the backcourt than their short-handed frontcourt, where they’ve been without their three tallest players (Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivišić and Ugonna Onyenso all season).

Even with Wagner unavailable for an undetermined time, UK still has Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves and Reed Sheppard as more traditional guards. Edwards is a versatile wing. Adou Thiero and Jordan Burks, who are listed as guards on the roster despite both standing 6-foot-8, are other options. (Though they have both played in the frontcourt alongside senior Tre Mitchell as the Wildcats await for the trio of bigs to be cleared to take the floor.)

Where it hurts most is Wagner himself: He entered Tuesday night on a tear, combining for 50 points (22 versus Saint Joseph’s, 28 against Marshall) in a pair of victories last week. Those efforts earned him the SEC’s Freshman of the Week award Monday.

Now, his short-term status is uncertain, and the Wildcats will have to carry on in his absence.

Follow Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black on X at @RyanABlack.

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