Mr. Basketball's On Board

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson chats with Peabody (LA) High point guard Dee Wagner (5-10, 185), who was recently named Mr. Basketball in Louisiana and plans to sign with Arkansas next Wednesday. This story is free and sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers.

A former Mr. Basketball candidate in Mississippi is headed out the door, but the current Mr. Basketball in Louisiana is headed in.

Peabody High point guard Dee Wagner (5-10, 185) said Thursday that will visit Arkansas next week and then sign with the Razorbacks on Wednesday, the day the April 11-May 16 spring signing period opens.

Wagner, who averaged 20.2 points, 5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3 steals per game, led his team to a 35-1 mark, the Class 4A state title and was named Mr. Basketball last Sunday.

"I love Coach Anderson and his style of play and think I will fit right in," Wagner said. "I think the biggest strength of my game is my toughness and that I have a will to win and will do whatever it takes to win. I think he likes that about me and that's why he wants me to be a Razorback."

In fact, Anderson brought up Corey Beck, the point guard on Arkansas' 1994 National Championship team.

"He thinks I can be that type of guy," Wagner said. "I wouldn't say I do anything great, but I do everything pretty well and I can play above the rim even at my size."

Indeed Wagner – whose full first name is Dequavious - has a 40-inch vertical jump and has been known to drive the lane and dunk over bigger foes.

"Dee has a great basketball IQ, is cat-quick and plays much bigger than his size because of his athleticism," Peabody assistant coach Kendrick Smith said. "He can get to the rim and finish. He is not a little kid. He is built like a running back and loves contact. Put that together with a guy that plays above the rim and you've got something."

Wagner won the Mr. Basketball Award over some higher ranked foes.

That list includes Baylor commit Ricardo Gathers, LSU signee Malik Morgan, Texas point guard signee Javan Felix, Tulane point guard signee Louis Dabney and Arkansas signee Michael Qualls, a spring AAU teammate of Wagner.

"There were a lot of great players in the state this season, but I have to give the voters a lot of credit," Smith said. "They could have just given it to Felix if it was about all the pre-season hype. But Dee went out and had a great season and led us to our second title in three years. He just had a fantastic year."

After early offers from schools such as Tulane, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State, interest mounted late.

"Arkansas came to see him, Georgetown and LSU because he really is one of the better guys out there unsigned," Smith said. "Arkansas did a great job and it just clicked right away.

"The reason he was so underrated is because our kids don't really play AAU ball much because we keep them together as a team during the summer," Smith added. "If they were on the Dallas Mustangs or Arkansas Wings, then they would be much more highly recruited, but we are about winning state titles."

Wagner is happy that Qualls will be one of his teammates in college. The two paired up on the Louisiana Select before Wagner returned to play with his high school team in June and July as normal.

"Mike is a great player that goes all out all the time," Wagner said. "We are both all about winning."

Arkansas. who announced Wednesday that junior Julysess Nobles would not be returning next season, started recruiting Wagner in February as he was leading his team to the state title.

He said Watkins and Anderson saw him play in the state title game and then came back and offered him.

"I told him I was ready to commit right away," Wagner said. "He was happy to have me say that and I think we are going to make a great team."

Smith agrees with that sentiment.

"We play the same style as Coach Anderson," Smith said. "If he was looking for a guy that has toughness, is a leader and a great basketball player, he found him. It should be a match made in heaven."

Dee Wagner shows off his team's state championship trophy.

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