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Calipari inks five winners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky coach John Calipari signed five players during the early signing period, including heralded guard D.J. Wagner.

Aaron Bradshaw, Robert Dillingham, Justin Edwards and North Laurel High School standout Reed Sheppard joined the class anchored by Wagner, the school announced Monday.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this class,” Calipari said. “We have five talented and dynamic players who have the drive and commitment it takes to succeed at Kentucky. They all know this isn’t for everyone, and they have welcomed that challenge and want to be pushed not only by our coaching staff, but by other really good players every day. Their potential to be great is there, now it is up to them to embrace this stage and come in every day ready to work.

“All five of these guys are winners. They’ve won at the highest levels and know how to impact winning in a number of ways. This is a group that the Big Blue Nation is going to want to cheer for.”

Wagner, a 6-foot-3 guard, is the son of Dajuan Wagner, who played for Calipari at Memphis and among the the top prospects in the nation. Wagner also is the grandson of former Louisville standout Milt Wagner.

“I have known D.J. his entire life and I’ve always wanted to coach him,” Calipari said. “Above all he is a competitor. He attacks the offensive end and is a versatile scorer, but he is equally as tough on defense. I love the spirit he’ll bring to practice every day, and I love that he wanted to be at Kentucky. He knows that to get the best of himself, he needs to be surrounded by other talented players who are going to match his competitive energy.”

Wagner added that he appreciated Calipari’s honesty during the recruiting process.

“Coach John Calipari was always straightforward and honest with me,” he said. “He said he would be with me until the wheels fall off the car either way. And that meant so much to me. I’m coming there to win. Winning comes first with me and I want to help Kentucky win as much as possible.”

Sheppard, the lone instate prospect in the class, is the son of former Kentucky standout Jeff Sheppard and signed with the Wildcats last week. Sheppard averaged 25.2 points per game as a junior and led North Laurel to the Sweet Sixteen last season.

“As a little boy from Kentucky, it’s always been a dream of mine to play at UK,” Sheppard said.

“I know playing for Kentucky has been a dream of Reed’s ever since he was a child,” Calipari added. “But Reed isn’t here because he wanted to be here. He’s here because he’s a really good player who can help this team win.

“He has terrific fundamentals and is the kind of player who can excel on or off the ball. I love his work ethic and the fact that he wants to be pushed on the biggest of stages to reach his full potential.”

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Keith Taylor
Keith Taylor is an award-winning journalist who has covered Kentucky athletics since 1995. He is the sports editor of Kentucky Today and his work appears in 12 daily newspapers as well as various weekly and web sites throughout the state. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor 21.

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