Derrick Walton On Franz Wagner's Potential: 'How Good Does He Want To Be?'
Former Michigan Wolverines basketball star Derrick Walton Jr. has quite the relationship with the Wagner family. Walton and Moe Wagner were a formidable duo at U-M for three seasons, especially in both of their final seasons in Ann Arbor (2016-17) when the Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament and made a run to the Sweet 16.
But what many don't know is that Walton has also been teammates with current U-M rising sophomore star wing Franz Wagner. The two teamed up during the 2018-19 season in Germany with Alba Berlin. Walton joined the team in the middle of the season, while Wagner was on a dual contract with Alba Berlin and SSV Iok Bernau.
"It’s like seeing the same dude from college in a different country," Walton said of the similarities between Moe and Franz, in an interview with The Wolverine. "They’re the exact same type of dude.
"It was cool because he was in a different part of his growing, his career.
"He’s just like Moe, man. That’s my dude. That’s my 'lil dude."
During their time together playing in Germany, Wagner was weighing his future options, and would pepper Walton with questions about U-M.
"He was considering coming to Michigan," Walton explained. "He would always ask me, but like obviously his brother would give good insight, but he would ask me about just smaller stuff.
"I just felt like it was my duty to kind of like give him the best input possible on that."
While Wagner has admitted it's been an adjustment going from the European game to the college game in America, he was well prepared, having played with Walton and other pros before coming stateside.
"Overall as a basketball player, he was already so smart," Walton said. "He’s smart as hell for a player his age."
Walton, himself, is back stateside. He played well for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, earning himself a guaranteed contract. He was traded at the deadline to the Atlanta Hawks before being waived and subsequently picked up by the Detroit Pistons on a 10-day deal. He's currently a free agent.
Walton was able to make it back to Crisler Center for the February matchup between U-M and Indiana, and was paying attention to what the Wolverines were doing in the first season under Juwan Howard.
As a freshman, Wagner averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while also becoming a lockdown defender on the wing. After watching Wagner up close and then as a freshman at U-M, Walton believes he's only going to get better.
"He can be as good as he wants to be because he has the physical tools, he has the work ethic," Walton said.
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