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Michigan basketball lands German prospect Franz Wagner, brother of Moritz, for 2019-20

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Franz Wagner with Alba Berlin

German prospect Franz Wagner hopes to follow a familial path to the NBA.

So like former Michigan star and older brother, Moritz, the younger Wagner’s journey will include a stop in Ann Arbor.

Wagner announced on Saturday he has committed to Michigan, opting to play for the Wolverines next season over staying in Germany and signing a professional contract with Alba Berlin.

"I am extremely excited about this opportunity," Wagner said in a statement. "I cannot wait to get on campus and meet everybody."

According to the Michigan basketball program, Wagner has signed a tender of financial aid for the 2019-20 academic year. Per a Michigan spokesperson, Michigan received his financial aid agreement before first-year coach Juwan Howard spoke about Wagner during a radio appearance earlier this week, meaning Howard's public comments weren't a minor NCAA violation.

In signing with the Wolverines, Wagner becomes the first commit of Howard's tenure, and joins four-star combo guard Cole Bajema as the second member of Michigan's 2019 class.

"We are extremely excited to announce Franz has committed to join the University of the Michigan in the fall," Howard said in a statement. "Franz gives us another talented guard with size who possesses a wonderful basketball IQ and a growing skill set that could be impactful for us right away."

While Wagner, 17, was being pursued by several colleges, Michigan was at the top of his list. Former coach John Beilein recruited him until he left for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Wagner took an official visit to Ann Arbor shortly after Beilein’s departure in May.

Even despite the head coaching and staff changes, the Wolverines remained the front-runner to land Wagner if he elected to go the college route like Moritz, who played for Alba Berlin before coming to Michigan, leading the team to the 2018 national title game and leaving a first-round NBA Draft pick. Moritz was drafted No. 25 overall by the Lakers last year and was traded to the Wizards this offseason.

Wagner, though, faced a different dilemma than his older brother. He's a prized 6-foot-8 prospect who played on a consistent basis and carved out a role while helping Alba Berlin to a runner-up finish this past season in the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL), the highest level of pro club ball in Germany.

In 35 games, including six starts, with Alba Berlin, Wagner averaged 4.6 points and 11.9 minutes while playing alongside former college standouts Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan) and Peyton Siva (Louisville). According to, Wagner shot 52.6 percent (60-for-114) from the field, 87 percent (20-for-23) on free throws and 39.6 percent (21-for-53) on 3-pointers from international distance, which is where the 3-point line is being moved to in Division I next season.

During the BBL championship series against Bayern Munich last month, Wagner started Game 2 and finished with 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting en route to winning the BBL Best Young Player Award, which goes to the league's top player under the age of 22.

Wagner also spent time with SSV Lokomotive Bernau in ProB, a lower-tier league, where he made six starts and averaged 16.3 points last season.

While 247Sports doesn’t rank international prospects until they commit, 247Sports director of recruiting Evan Daniels said last month Wagner would be rated a “top 50 level recruit if he was in the U.S.”

"I've seen that if I keep working like I do now, I can play very well here (with Alba Berlin)," Wagner told German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost in March. "I'm still trying to establish myself in the top league.

"Alba is one of the best situations in Europe that you can have as a 17- or 18-year-old. This is the perfect coach (Aito Garcia Reneses), I'm at home and I know all the people.”

Wagner told 247Sports in March he didn’t see much of an advantage basketball-wise going the college route given his status and position with Alba Berlin, although he was intrigued at “getting to know other culture and other people.” It was the college experience that drew Moritz to Ann Arbor, and apparently it had a similar pull on Franz. 

It also didn't hurt that Saddi Washington, who played a key role in Moritz's development during his time at Michigan from 2015-18, was the lone assistant who was retained by Howard.

Whatever additional push Howard made has resulted in a boon for Michigan. Wagner fills an immediate need for the Wolverines, who are desperate for wing scoring and perimeter shooting after losing leading scorers Jordan Poole, Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews. Poole and Brazdeikis were also among Michigan’s top 3-point shooters.

“My biggest strength is my versatility on the offensive end because I’m a big wing but can still handle the ball, shoot the ball,” Wagner told 247Sports in March. “Shooting is one of my biggest strengths, but overall reading in-game, making decisions also defensively, when to help, when to stay on my guy so I think defensively and also the length I have helps a lot.”

That much-needed help will be on the way after a brief detour. Wagner is scheduled to play for Germany in the U18 European Championship in Volos, Greece, from July 27-Aug. 4 before reporting to Michigan.

The Wolverines, however, won't mind the wait, considering Wagner's decision is one of the few that has gone their way this offseason. Michigan missed out on grad transfers Justin Pierce (North Carolina) and Jaevin Cumberland (Cincinnati) and lost four-star wing Jalen Wilson, a former signee, to Kansas following Beilein's departure.

With Wagner in the fold, the Wolverines have two open scholarships remaining for the 2019-20 season after finally receiving some welcome news from a familiar name.

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins