(See also: Dawson Garcia Indiana Official Visit Primer)
While Indiana natives proudly proclaim that the Hoosier State is the country’s per capita cradle of basketball talent, another state within the Big Ten’s borders is at least challenging that notion.
Minnesota has produced a significant amount of high major level players in recent years, and at the heart of it is that state’s top AAU program — D1 Minnesota.
Current Hoosier Race Thompson came from D1 Minnesota, as did former 2019 recruiting target Matthew Hurt and a host of other players that Indiana has shown interest in.
IU has something of an ace-in-the-hole in the “Star of the North.” Hoosier assistant coach Tom Ostrom hails from Minnesota and actually attended the University of Minnesota, working as an undergrad in the men’s basketball program under then head coach Clem Haskins.
If you want to recruit Minnesota you have to have relationships with D1 Minnesota, and Ostrom can check that box.
Leading the D1 Minnesota program is head coach Al Harris.
Harris’ U17 D1 Minnesota team was 33-5 this spring and summer, and one of, if not their top player was high priority class of 2020 Indiana recruiting target Dawson Garcia.
Ostrom has been leading the charge for IU in the recruitment of Garcia for well over a year now, and what he no doubt sees is one aspect of the forward’s game that stands out above the rest.
D1 Minnesota head coach Harris spoke with The Daily Hoosier on what we all see when watching the 6-foot-11 Garcia on the basketball court — his versatility as a big man.
“I know that Dawson has worked on his craft a lot,” Harris told The Daily Hoosier. “He has definitely developed a level of skill where he is very successful both inside and outside, not only as an offensive player, but also as a defensive player.”
Garcia’s offensive capabilities are well documented. He averaged 27.5 points and 11 rebounds a game as a high school junior at Prior Lake for a 25-4 top five ranked team. The highlight videos are out there.
But as basketball savvy readers know, a big man’s versatility on the offensive end can be marginalized if they cannot bring a commensurate level of skill to the other end of the floor.
“It is one thing to say that you are fundamentally sound and able and versatile offensively, but it is another thing to say that you truly have the versatility when you can actually defend that as well,” Harris added.
Just how versatile is Garcia on the defensive end?
“Dawson definitely has the ability to comfortably defend one through four,” Harris said.
Wait, this 6-foot-11 kid can cover guards?
“There’s no question that Dawson can, at 6-foot-11 with his length and ability, not only handle the ball as a point forward, as a small forward, or even a shooting guard, but he also has the ability to defend those positions as well, Harris told The Daily Hoosier.
“So if you get into any type of situation where it’s a ball screen action and he has to switch on to those individuals, he has no problem guarding them very fluently at the next level.”
If you watch Indiana head coach Archie Miller’s defense carefully, you’ll notice that one of the highly valued skills of a big man is the ability to help on high ball screens.
It is one thing to provide the help, but the real magic starts when a big man can be impactful when he does it.
Harris sees that potential at the next level for Garcia.
“Any ball screen action where they hedge outside, that ball handler will be in retreat dribble motion if Dawson were to step out there, Harris said.
“If the ball handler is a very aggressive individual, he has the ability to switch and guard that individual for maybe three to five dribbles and force a change in direction and then get back to his main defensive assignment as well. He does have the ability to flow laterally and vertically very well.”
The idea of a 6-foot-11 Garcia playing high level perimeter defense paints an intriguing picture for Indiana.
Just how long could the Hoosiers go in 2020-21 if they were to land him? It isn’t altogether unrealistic to imagine a 6-foot-11 Joey Brunk, 6-foot-9 Trayce Jackson-Davis and 6-foot-11 Garcia all on the floor at the same time.
That sort of scenario might actually be the best fit for Garcia, at least as his body develops.
If he has a weakness right now, it’s his strength.
“I think (guarding the) five at times gives him a little bit of trouble because of the weight situation, however I think when he gets to the collegiate level and gains a little bit more weight and muscle he’ll be able to do that a lot more as well, said Harris, who also trains players at Drive Athletic Performance in Edina, Minnesota.
“All athletes physically need to get better strength wise being a lot quicker or faster. The collegiate game is a lot faster. He’ll have to get faster and stronger and he works on that every day.”
Beyond his unique talents on the court, Harris sees intangibles in Garcia that make him intriguing to college coaches as well.
Playing on a D1 Minnesota roster literally full of division one basketball players, Garcia stands out as a leader and a teammate.
“He’s very verbal,” Harris said. “I don’t have any issue with him being vocal.”
If Garcia came to Indiana, he would likely do so as the highest rated recruit in IU’s 2020 recruiting class.
But Harris doesn’t see Garcia as the type of young man that will arrive entitled with an ego.
“I had a chance to coach a really talented group,” Harris said. “What made them very special was their chemistry, their conversations, and the relationships.
“I don’t think Dawson will have any problems with adapting to whatever program he were to go to just on the fact that he values relationships. That’s been instilled in him for quite some time, and that will be part of the reason why he chooses the university that he chooses. Not only the staff, but the players from those programs that he is looking at. I think he’ll do very well with that. He’s a very good teammate.”
Part of what makes Garcia a good teammate is his impact in the locker room.
“One thing that people will really love about Dawson is that he is very, very positive,” Harris added. “He’s a very positive individual when he is dealing with other teammates.
“He impacts others by his work ethic. He understands (what it means) I’m the first one in the gym, I’m the last one in the gym. And to have a freshman with that type of mentality, and then also the unbelievable level of relationships that he believes in will speak volumes at whatever university he travels to.”
So what university will Garcia be traveling to as his final destination?
Garcia is down to a final four of Indiana, Marquette, Memphis and Minnesota. Recent national recruiting site stories have suggested that Garcia is really down to a final two of Marquette and Indiana, with the Golden Eagles perhaps holding a slight lead.
Reliable sources have told The Daily Hoosier that IU might actually be the leader here, but it is difficult to put too much weight into that until Garcia steps onto the Indiana campus for the first time ever this weekend in connection with his official visit.
Leader or not, the Hoosiers clearly have an opportunity to move the needle this weekend.
Suffice it to say that Miller and Ostrom have done good work to get IU to this point, and Hoosier fans shouldn’t have to wait long for the final verdict. Garcia said in a recent radio interview that he would like to wrap up the process by November 20, which coincides with the fall early signing period.
Until then, we can only speculate and discuss Garcia’s group of finalists. It is a truly interesting group of schools when you consider that for much of his recruitment, all of the chatter centered around the recruiting heavyweights like North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky.
How exactly did Garcia, a top 30 prospect and a five star at least according to some services, end up with his unique list of finalists?
It all goes back to the importance that he places on relationships.
“He built some fabulous relationships early on with the four schools that are finalized on his list and that has just overcome the other schools,” Harris told The Daily Hoosier. “He took basically all of August to call coaches and let them know that he was moving forward with other schools.”
Further to the point about Garcia not arriving on campus with an ego, Harris also sees a young player that wants more out of his college experience, however long it may be, than just a stepping stone to the next level.
“I think Dawson realized that where he wants to be beyond college basketball, doesn’t have to be about business,” Harris said. “It can be about the relationships and basketball.
“Sometimes, as I’ve tried to inform him, what if instead of a one or two and done you have to be a three or four and done — what institution would you be more comfortable being at while trying to reach the highest goal. And that’s very important to him.”
Of course Garcia will jump at the chance to play professionally whenever the timing is right.
But his outlook is nevertheless refreshing in an era where it feels like the college basketball pendulum has shifted too much toward the business side.
Just don’t be mistaken. When it comes to the actual game of basketball, Garcia is all business.
And if Indiana is fortunate enough to land him, Harris believes they will get exactly what makes him so intriguing.
“I think he’ll be very successful at the high major level being as versatile as people expect,” Harris said.
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