NCAA grants Gophers newcomer Garcia waiver to play this season

·2 min read

Former Prior Lake star and North Carolina transfer Dawson Garcia had his waiver granted by the NCAA on Friday to have immediate eligibility to play for the Gophers men's basketball team this season.

The 6-11, 235-pound Garcia was a former McDonald's All-American who returned home to Minnesota last year to support his family while they struggled with COVID-19.

"Dawson is an experienced competitor who will make an immediate impact on the court," Gophers coach Ben Johnson said in a statement. "We're looking forward to building on what he accomplished this summer into the season."

Garcia averaged 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 37.5% from three-point range in 16 games for North Carolina last season, including 12 starts. He began his career at Marquette and earned All-Big East freshman honors in 2020-21.

"It's what you need in this league at this level," Johnson said earlier. "You've got to have guys who have that caliber of talent."

In his first 10 games with the Tar Heels, Garcia averaged 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, shot 47.8% from three and 49.4% from the field. Among his three 20-point performances, including a season-high 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting in a loss against Purdue.

After entering the transfer portal last spring, Garcia talked with the Gophers about playing for the home state program and helping build a foundation. Johnson recruited Garcia when he was an assistant for former U coach Richard Pitino.

"Ben's done an unbelievable job to establish a culture in one year," Garcia said earlier. "I'm excited to put on the uniform, but also when the time comes to be a proud alum and say I was part of the process of getting Minnesota basketball back."

Garcia's expected to play in the frontcourt alongside the Gophers scoring and rebounding leader Jamison Battle, who played in the same D1 Minnesota AAU program in high school.

Junior forwards Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen suffered season-ending knee injuries this summer for the second straight year, but freshman Pharrel Payne and returning 7-foot sophomore Treyton Thompson should also provide depth inside.