'Felt like family': Prior Lake basketball star Dawson Garcia picks Marquette, not Gophers

A decision more than two years in the making became official on Wednesday for Prior Lake basketball star Dawson Garcia.

A 6-11 forward that’s considered one of the top 40 players in the country, Garcia announced his commitment to Marquette in front of a packed gym at Prior Lake after school. His final four schools were Marquette, Minnesota, Indiana and Memphis. Wednesday was the final day of the fall signing period for recruits to commit and sign letters of intent.

“All the schools that it came down to were all great schools, so it’s really great decision versus great decision. But at the end of the day, my gut feeling, I just felt most comfortable at Marquette. I felt that was the best decision for me,” Garcia said.

It's the latest Minnesota player to head to play for Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette, who also got DeLaSalle's Sacar Anim in 2015 and Theo John in 2017.

Garcia averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds per game last season for Prior Lake, which finished 27-4 and got to the section finals before losing to Eden Prairie. Garcia had offers from virtually every major Division I basketball program in the country.

Garcia made official visits to his final four schools in September and October. He and his family kept the entire recruiting process very close to the vest, and nobody knew where Garcia was headed until he donned a Marquette baseball hat Wednesday to make his decision official.

He said he was sold on the family atmosphere created by his most recent visit to Marquette in the last few weeks.

“Just hanging out with the players was really cool, as well as the people around the program, academic advisers, strength coach. From top to bottom, I have a great relationship with everyone on that campus,” Garcia said.

Dave Garcia, Dawson’s father, said the decision was finalized Wednesday morning and that’s when they made calls to inform the various coaches.

It also meant disappointing news for Archie Miller at Indiana, Penny Hardaway at Memphis and back home in Minnesota, Richard Pitino.

“It was tough. As a family, for him personally it’s probably one of his toughest decisions ever in his life. Coach Pitino, Coach (Kyle) Lindsted think the world of him,” Dave Garcia said.

Jon Miller is the boys basketball coach at Prior Lake. He remembers watching a gangly eight-grader in Garcia when he had to find a way to defend him as the head coach at Shakopee.

When Miller’s Shakopee team faced Prior Lake two years ago, Garcia went for 27 points and 15 rebounds against his Sabers. Now, Miller is coaching one of the best players in the state, and at 6-11, he plays everywhere on the floor.

“He’s going to be my point guard. He rebounds, he’ll lead the break. He doesn’t get the ball out of his hands. He puts so much pressure on the defense because 1, he can take it four steps, get to the rim and dunk it or he can pull up from 28 and hit a three,” Miller said. “There’s no-one in our state that can guard him.”

Garcia is the latest of star Minnesota high school basketball players opting not to stay home. But Miller said Richard Pitino and Kyle Lindsted did everything possible to keep Garcia in their backyard.

“Kyle did a fantastic job with Dawson. Those two, they would come into open gym and they were almost like brothers. I told Kyle and Pitino you guys have done a fantastic job with Dawson,” Miller said. “They did everything they could to keep a guy like him here.”

It’s an especially difficult local recruiting cycle for Pitino. Steven Crowl and Ben Carlson are both going to rival Wisconsin, Dain Dainja chose Baylor, Gabe Madsen chose Cincinnati and Jalen Suggs is likely to choose Gonzaga, unless he pursues a professional route overseas. Hopkins guard Kerwin Walton remains undecided and is still very much on the Gophers’ radar.

Last year, David Roddy chose Colorado State, Matthew Hurt chose Duke, Tyler Wahl opted for Wisconsin and Tyrell Terry chose Stanford.

But, Pitino does have former local stars Gabe Kalscheur, Daniel Oturu, Jarvis Omersa and Michael Hurt on the Gophers’ roster. He was also hoping Amir Coffey would stay for his senior year, but Coffey is currently with the L.A. Clippers.

Garcia said Wednesday it was difficult to tell coach Pitino he was headed elsewhere.

“It was very difficult just because I have a great relationship with him. But they understood and they handled it in a very good way, and I’m appreciative of them recruiting me throughout the whole process too. They were a class act,” Garcia said.