Dawson Garcia was rising so fast in the Class of 2020 this summer that nothing seemed like it could slow him down. Not on the court anyway.
An illness sidelined the five-star 6-foot-11 Prior Lake senior during the biggest recruiting month of the year.
Not being able to play for D1 Minnesota and help his AAU team compete for a title to finish off the adidas circuit was tough. So was being out when many top coaches were making decisions on scholarship offers during the evaluation period, including Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Still, Garcia’s summer isn’t over. During an interview with the Star Tribune, he talked about returning for one last tournament at the Fantastic 40 in Las Vegas this week, the Gophers being strong contenders in his recruitment, probably not signing late and more.
Q: Your last summer of high school basketball was nearly cut short? How much are you looking forward to finishing off the AAU season strong?
A: It’s been a great summer so far. Started off the summer really good: winning gold, (undefeated in AAU) and doing well in a couple camps. I had a little bit of a setback when I was sick for a week, but then I was able to train and all that. It was tough that I couldn’t play in Alabama or California (Adidas events). But I’m looking forward to Las Vegas here coming up. It will be great to play with them one last time. We’ve been playing together since we were 15. It’s rare to have a team together that long. I’m excited to finish it off with the brothers I started with.
Q: How much were you able to watch your D1 Minnesota squad play the last two tournaments?
A: I went to California. It was fun watching to see all the guys picking up for me being out. The guys like Ben (Carlson) and Kerwin (Walton) those guys stepped up big, as well as when I watched them in Birmingham. I got to watch a couple games on the computer. It was fun to seeing them fighting. I’m excited to get back and play with those guys.
Q: How close were you to shutting it down for the summer and not play AAU again?
A: Fortunately, I was able to still eat. So, I didn’t lose any weight. I went back into training and all that, so I feel like my strength is back to normal. I’m feeling really good.
Q: You plan to narrow your list down soon, right?
A: It’s a little bit difficult. It would’ve been a lot easier if I was able to play in Birmingham or go to Team USA (junior national team minicamp last week), because I would’ve cut my list a lot sooner. But it’s really that I’m going to sit down with my family and coach to just talk about all the schools. Probably come up with a top seven or eight. Not right after Vegas, but I’m going to talk it out soon about (official) visits here and there. And I’m still keeping other schools in mind as well.
Q: How strongly are you considering the Gophers since they’re the home state program?
A: They’ll definitely be in the mix, because it’s my hometown. It’s definitely something to strongly consider. Sometimes here and there I’ll be at the gym and there will be some older (fans) and some even that played there back in the day. They’ll try to convince me to play there. It’s cool to hear their thoughts on everything. I would definitely feel comfortable there.
Q: How do you see Richard Pitino’s program right now?
A: I see the program going up. Last year, they had a super strong season (NCAA tournament second round). They had the two transfers sitting out last year. I think they are very good players who are going to help a lot. Losing (Amir) Coffey hurt a little bit, but I think they’ll pick up pretty good.
Q: Do you have a good relationship with the current U players from Minnesota?
A: Yeah. I went on an unofficial visit (in June). After I watched practice I stuck around a little bit and talked to them. It was pretty cool and all that.
Q: Will your commitment come in the early signing period? Or will you wait until the spring to sign late?
A: Maybe some time in the winter. I don’t really know at this point to give you a 100 percent answer when exactly I’ll decide. I don’t think it will take that long.
Q: What did you think when blue-blood offers came from Kansas and North Carolina? How much harder is Duke recruiting you?
A: It was just a blessing honestly. Talking to the legends on the phone from the blue bloods. It’s just a really cool experience to learn from the greats. I’ve been talking to (Duke) here and there.
Q: You played the role (Duke incoming freshman) Matthew Hurt did last season leading this D1 Minnesota team to the top of the standings. What did you learn from him?
A: Watching him last year (Dawson played on the U16 team) it was a lot of fun. Just seeing a guy who goes out there and puts up numbers and is super-efficient. That’s one thing I liked about his game is that I really liked he was super-efficient and just kept the same pace and demeanor. Throughout the game he doesn’t get too high or too low. This summer I felt like I’ve stepped up my game a lot. I got stronger, more athletic and continued to polish my jumper and handle. Now I’m starting to be known on the national scene. Obviously, I didn’t play at the other live periods, but I can’t wait to get to Vegas to showcase what I’ve been working on in my game from June until now.
Q: You’re nearly 7-feet tall, but do you see yourself as better in the low post or more of a perimeter player?
A: I just see myself as a player who plays very hard and likes to get after it and compete. I kind of play with a chip on my shoulder. Being this tall and being able to move the way I do is because I wasn’t always supposed to be this tall. My parents aren’t that tall. My dad is 6-foot and my mom is 5-11. I was always working on my guard skills and it just helped a ton when I started growing more and more. Thankfully I kept my quickness and all that. For my high school team, I’ll be handling the ball a lot this year. We don’t really have a true point guard. In AAU, I push the ball up on the break, but I’m never really the guy setting up the plays. But I think this year in high school I’ll do that a lot of the time.
Q: What was it like winning a gold medal for Team USA? Also, how different was playing 3-on-3 at that level?
A: It’s a great feeling. It means a lot to represent your country. (3-on-3) is just a lot faster game. You have to constantly be on alert. In 5-on-5 if you score, you can kind of jog back a little bit to find your guy. But in 3-on-3 right when you score, the other team can kick it right back out. So, you have to be ready for them to be shooting.
Q: What type of team will you have this coming season at Prior Lake High?
A: I think we’ll have a good team. I think we have a chance to be better this year, because the guys are dialed in and have worked super hard this summer. Our practices are a lot different. We’ve been playing really hard. Some of lower levels like JV were timid last year, but we’ve got a bunch of competitors this year in practice and in the weight room as well.