In 2004 all eyes were on Dajuan Wagner, 21, then a shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. Dajuan, a Camden native, had come off a phenomenal career at Camden High School where, in 2001, he became New Jersey's all-time scoring leader with 3,642 points. He was the ultimate high school basketball star who made it big with the Cavs.
Where is Dajuan now? His sports career hasn't been easy. Plagued by injuries and illness, including major surgery in 2005 to remove his colon, Dajuan is now currently playing for Polish basketball champions Prokom Trefl Sopot. The team, based in Sopot, Poland, plays in the Polish League and the Euroleague. He has said he wants to make a comeback in American basketball.
Dajuan's professional basketball career is yet another example of how challenging it can be at the top. Here is a portion of an interview with Dajuan--then at the pinnacle of his brief sports career--that ran in NJ Next magazine in 2004:
Next: What was it like growing up in Camden?
Dajuan: I've got a big family. My dad, Milt Wagner, played professional basketball, which is why I wanted to do it. I've got three sisters and lots of family around. Camden High was a nice place to go to school. Camden is a basketball city. They love basketball there and so do I. I'm always in Camden. I go to my favorite restaurants, like Temple's, which sells good cheese steaks. I hang out with my buddies form high school. I spend lots of time with my family during the off-season.
Next: What else did you do during the most recent off-season?
Dajuan: I just worked out really hard, played lots of basketball and worked on my game to get ready for the season.
Next: How is your third year of the pros different from your rookie year?
Dajuan: I've learned a little more since my rookie year, like how to take the traveling, which can be kind of demanding. Otherwise, it's really the same.
Next: Now you're playing with LeBron James, who went straight to the pros from high school. You spent one year at the University of Memphis before hitting the pros. Any regrets?
Dajuan: I'm happy I went to college for that year. I learned a lot in that one year about the game. I'm going to go back to college eventually. Right now I'm just focused on playing. I want to take my basketball career as far as I can.
Next: What kind of career are you interested in after pro sports?
Dajuan: I want to open up a few businesses. I have no idea what types of businesses yet, but I know that's what I want to do.
Next: How has pro sports met your expectations?
Dajuan: The injuries have been hard, but everything else has been real good. I have no complaints. I like everything about pro basketball. I'm getting paid for something I really love to do.
Next: What advice would you give to young people who are considering a career in pro sports?
Dajuan: You can make it if you're willing to work hard. A lot of people don't work hard and don't understand why they don't get there. But it's not all about playing. You've got to have your grades up just in case. You've got to have something to fall back on. School should always come first.
Next: Why did you make it in pro sports when so many kids don't?
Dajuan: You've just got to work and never give up. Natural talent has a little to do with it, but you can always work on that. You've just got to keep at it.