Dawson Garcia’s Journey: Faith, basketball brought him to the Gophers

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On a May morning in northern Minneapolis, Dawson Garcia joined his friends at a neighborhood gym. They kneel to pray and then sweat and swishes on the basketball court.

Garcia officially joined the Gophers men’s basketball team this weekend. But almost every morning for months before he worked on both basketball and spiritual games in Minnesota – something he needed now more than ever.

“It just got me off the ground and on the right track,” said the 6-11 North Carolina transfer and former McDonald’s All-America at Prior Lake.

He eventually became a Gopher. She feels it is a blessing to be able to help build the program and to be able to be close to family members who are so important to her.

Coach Ben Johnson, who has known Garcia since ninth grade, welcomed the prized transfer to campus with the rest of the U basketball team to start summer school Friday.

“But I don’t want him to feel like a one-man show and he has to put it all on the weight of the world,” Johnson said. “And just knowing Dawson, he’s not the type of kid you expect. He just wants to come here and work.”

Dawson Garcia who took the training field in maroon and gold this week is not the same as he left his home country two years ago. Needing nothing but basketball, Garcia began to trust his faith more.

Training with Hoops and Christ, a Minneapolis -based basketball and religious outreach program, has helped provide comfort to the 20 -year -old since back in January – the middle of last season in North Carolina – when his family began to suffer during the pandemic. .

“One thing I’ve noticed from people in the last few months is the resiliency to push through everything you’ve been going through,” Hoops and Christ founder Chauncee Hollingsworth said. “He’s in the gym non -stop. … But he also surrounds himself with a wonderful church community that plays a big role, as well as our program.”

Garcia spent the evening in worship and communion with friends at Bethel’s Rock Church in Apple Valley. Hoops and Christ fills the morning with prayer, followed by a combination of intense dribble and layup, and taking doses and severe situations. Such a weekly routine tests the body and soothes the mind.

Garcia is still waiting in the NCAA to approve a difficulty waiver in order to be eligible to play directly. This is his second transfer, after he moved from Marquette to North Carolina a year ago.

Earlier this year after leaving Tar Heels, Garcia reached a “low point” watching his loved ones suffer. His grandfather died, and his father recovered, but a long and terrifying battle with the COVID-19.

“I was in a difficult place with everything that was happening in my family,” Garcia said. “I feel like I have to be there for them, and they need my help. I would definitely say, faith definitely helps at that time.”

The NBA can wait

Sharing the gym with former teammate Marquette Theo John, Garcia’s tank top dripped sweat as he repeated the jab, crossover and jumper combo steps until eight of 10 shots filled the net from far and wide.

“Staying locked up is the biggest key,” said Garcia, who underwent similar training while training in Memphis with former NBA player Mike Miller last summer. After announcing the start for the 2021 NBA draft, Garcia participated in a pre-draft joint and worked for the NBA team before deciding to move to North Carolina.

“It was a great process, and I learned a lot,” Garcia added. “It feels like it’s really growing my game.”

Pro Scouts are interested in Garcia’s perimeter skills in terms of size. He has some three -pointers, can facilitate and score a dribble, like a guard who is almost 7 feet away. In Marquette, he won the Big East All-Freshman Team award in 2020-21. He has averaged 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds, and shot 36% of long distance in 43 games over two college seasons.

With his decision to leave Chapel Hill, Garcia missed the Tar Heels ’NCAA tournament until he reached the championship game, where he lost to Kansas. Now, another offseason begins with a new team. But this time, there was a more familiar face.

“This is a house,” Garcia said. “I was around a guy who grew up. I was very familiar with this area with a lot of people. [who support me]. It’s a great thing. I’m glad. “

Finally, the hometown fits

Garcia attending games at Williams Arena grew up, so he described finally performing for the Gophers this spring as “feeling very emotional.”

Gophers fans first imagined it happening two years ago. For Class 2020, Garcia is the best prospect in the country behind Jalen Suggs of Minnehaha Academy. But Johnson, who was Richard Pitino’s assistant for five seasons, has left Minnesota to join Xavier’s coaching staff in 2018. A scholarship offer for Garcia didn’t come until after that. He made the difficult decision to sign with Marquette.

“But I’m really happy with Minnesota,” Garcia said. “And now I’m so thankful to be able to wear a Minnesota jersey.”

When Garcia decided this spring for a second transfer, Johnson was quick to make contact.

“We talked about our system and our style and how we knew they could fit in and be a good part of what we were going to do,” Johnson said. “He’s just ready to work. He’s ready to hone his work and get better. The kid can definitely improve. He likes to compete, he likes to play sports.”

The Gophers, who finished 13-17 in Johnson’s debut year, desperately need an extra all-conference caliber. The only ones returning early were goalkeeper and rebounder Jamison Battle, but strikers Parker Fox, Isaiah Ihnen and Treyton Thompson also returned.

“They have a relationship that will come back,” Johnson said. “So it feels right to fit him. I feel great, especially when you move. You want to feel that part.”

Garcia’s father, Dave, knows what it’s like to get out of the house for college sports. A native of Colorado, he played basketball and was a midfielder at Black Hills State in South Dakota. There he met Dawson’s mother, Stacey, a basketball star at home.

His son’s journey is now over.

“Although it was very difficult, but Dawson is back home,” Dave Garcia said this spring. “But it’s bigger than basketball with everything that happens.”

Garcia said his family still needs support. He prays every morning before Hoops and Christ sessions.

Putting faith and basketball at the center of life gives Garcia stability and strength. He hopes to bring it to the Gophers.

“I just want to help Minnesota get somewhere [the right direction]”Garcia said.” I feel like if we work … I’m worried that to be the best we can be individually, everyone will take care of themselves. “