UK Recruiting

With dearth of quality big men in 2020 class, this recruit could be valuable UK target

Highly touted forward has high level of interest in Kentucky

Four-star power forward Dawson Garcia won a gold medal in 3-on-3 basketball with Team USA earlier this spring, and he's caught UK's attention on the recruiting trail.
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Four-star power forward Dawson Garcia won a gold medal in 3-on-3 basketball with Team USA earlier this spring, and he's caught UK's attention on the recruiting trail.

The message of “Kentucky isn’t for everybody” has been a staple of John Calipari’s recruiting pitch since the early days of his tenure at the helm of the Wildcats’ basketball program.

For many kids, it takes actually visiting Lexington and seeing things up close to truly get it. Some recent UK players have said they didn’t understand the full meaning of those words until they actually joined the program and became entrenched in Kentucky basketball culture.

Others get it right away. Dawson Garcia seems to fit into that category.

“It’s a great program,” Garcia told the Herald-Leader at this past week’s Top 100 Camp. “They get guys to the league right away. And even when they came to my school and talked to me, they were like, ‘Yeah, Kentucky’s not for everybody.’ And that’s true. … When you go to Kentucky, you gotta love basketball or it could be a living hell for you.”

The 6-foot-10 prospect from Minnesota would welcome the opportunity to prove his love for the game in such an environment.

Garcia said his “level of interest is high” in the Wildcats’ program, and Kentucky’s coaches have been keeping an eye on him for a while now.

UK assistant coach Joel Justus was the program’s representative on the aforementioned recruiting visit during this past high school season, which ended with Garcia averaging 27.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a junior.

Justus also watched Garcia plenty during the 24-hour window that coaches were allowed into the Top 100 Camp last week, and John Calipari also got a look at the versatile forward during that time frame.

Garcia tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes in the opening game of the elite camp, making three of seven three-point attempts during the contest. He looked plenty comfortable playing on the perimeter and facing the basket but also isn’t afraid to compete in the paint. That versatility makes him a coveted recruit in the 2020 class.

“Any time a guy that’s 6-foot-10 and a lefty can shoot it and has a great motor and toughness, he’s always going to be respected as a valuable prospect,” national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader. “And what makes him even more valuable is the fact that the 2020 (frontcourt) class is very limited. So when you have a guy like Dawson, who’s versatile, tough, consistent — it just makes him that much more valuable.”

Garcia — ranked No. 38 overall and the No. 5 power forward nationally by — has accumulated scholarship offers from such local schools as Minnesota, Marquette and Wisconsin, as well as the likes of Arizona, Indiana, Baylor, Texas, Xavier and many others.

He mentioned Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga as a handful of programs that haven’t offered yet but have said they would be watching him closely the rest of the summer.

Evans is expecting more options in Garcia’s future.

“Once those schools get a better feel for, ‘Hey, there’s not much else out there. We need to fill a couple frontcourt spots’ — and the blue bloods have to fill those spots every year — the need for a guy like Dawson goes through the roof,” he said.

Those blue bloods still have some time to figure things out.

Garcia said that — while he plans to make a college decision in the fall — he isn’t planning to cut his list or line up official visits until after the summer travel season is finished.

It sounded clear that he’d like to see some Kentucky-caliber offers come his way — “A lot can change in the summer,” he said — and recruiting insiders told the Herald-Leader at the Top 100 Camp that Garcia is the type of kid that would leave home for such an opportunity.

Earlier this spring, he helped lead USA Basketball to a 3-on-3 gold medal at the U18 world championships in Mongolia. Last summer, he was a key player alongside Duke recruit Matthew Hurt for D1 Minnesota, one of the top travel teams in the country.

“He gets it,” Evans said. “He’s a mature kid, as well. He’s been-there-done-that on the travel circuit with D1 Minnesota last year. He’s always had a target on his back. I think he’s one of those type of guys that the blue bloods want — someone who’s going to battle through adversity and handle it well.”

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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