High expectations for Camden basketball

by Marc Narducci | Dec 20, 2021
High expectations for Camden basketball

The high school boys’ basketball season has begun and here’s hoping that there will be a state championship to compete for.

In March of 2020, the NJSIAA canceled the state championship games and Tournament of Champions due to COVID. Some teams competed in the state semifinal before the rest of the season was canceled and some just made it to the sectional final.

Then last season, there was no state tournament of any kind. Teams were only able to play 15 games and there were no playoffs.

So this season it’s hoped that there can be a full state tournament.

All eyes this year will be on Camden, not only in South Jersey and in the state, but nationwide. The Panthers, who entered the season with a 38-game win streak, were the preseason No. 1 team in the state according to NJ.com.

Then on the opening day of the season, Camden earned a 67-64 win over visiting Roselle Catholic, in a game matching the top two teams in the state.

The game was the first in Camden’s new gymnasium and was televised by ESPNU. That shows the type of attention that Camden will command this year.

Everything starts with D.J. Wagner, the 6-3 guard who many consider the best junior in the country. He is from the famous Wagner family. His grandfather Milt, was a state champion at Camden, a national champ at Louisville and won an NBA title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

His father Dajuan Wagner led Camden to a state title in 2000 and the Tournament of Champions title that year before attending Memphis University for one season. He was the No. 6 overall pick in the NBA draft 2002 NBA draft and had an impressive rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers before his career was derailed by injury and illness.

Now D.J. has taken the sport by storm with all the major powerhouses recruiting him.

Camden is much more than a one-man band, although the Panthers will relay heavily on Wagner. He scored 25 points in the opening win over Roselle Catholic but a key performer was junior point guard Cian Medley, who had 12 points and nine assists in the opening win.

The Panthers lost some key frontcourt players to graduation but have reloaded.

Junior Aaron Bradshaw, a 7-foot transfer from Roselle Catholic, had nine points and nine rebounds in the opener against his former team.

Senior Elijah Perkins, a transfer from Ranney, is another key addition for the Panthers.

Leading the team is Rick Brunson, a long-time NBA player and assistant coach who is in his third year guiding the Panthers.

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Brunson is a no-nonsense coach who holds his players to a high standard and won’t allow them to get caught up in all the hype.

Camden will play a strong schedule and will be the highlight of any opponent’s season. It should make for an exciting season as the Panthers look to add to their collection of 11 state championships.

Author: Marc Narducci


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