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UNC Basketball Summer Preview: Dawson Garcia

He was the best freshman in the Big East last year, and now the sophomore big serves as an important component of Hubert Davis’ new system.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief hiatus, we are back with this summer’s UNC 2021-22 player previews! The last time we were all here, Doug Valentine discussed freshman wing D’Marco Dunn’s shooting prowess, and how he should have a strong season under Hubert Davis’ first season as head coach. That has been a theme so far, and we are going to continue that theme by discussing one of the more intriguing players on the roster, Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia. Before we start, however, be sure to get caught up on our previews to this point.

Past preview links:

July 26th: D’Marco Dunn

May 30th: Leaky Black

June 6th: Anthony Harris

June 13th: Armando Bacot

June 20th: Caleb Love

June 27th: RJ Davis

July 4th: Kerwin Walton

July 12th: Puff Johnson

July 18th: Dontrez Styles

Let’s start things at the beginning: Dawson Garcia came out of high school ranked 37th in the country, and was the fourth-best power forward in the 2020 class. Now that we have some perspective when it comes to what that rank actually means, it is worth pointing out that he was ranked just behind NCAA opt-out Isaiah Todd, Texas’ Greg Brown, and FSU’s Scottie Barnes. UNC did offer Garcia during his recruitment process, but ultimately Garcia ended up focusing on Marquette, Baylor, Indiana, Memphis, Minnesota, and Texas.

While a lot of freshman went through a lot of growing pains during the pandemic-dominated 2020-21 season, Dawson Garcia was impressive from start to finish. He finished his season averaging 13 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 1.6 turnovers. When it comes to shooting averages, Garcia shot 48% from the field, and drained 35.6% of his three-point attempts.

To give an idea of what his three-point shooting percentage means when it comes to what we can expect from him at UNC, Garcia only attempted more than four shots from deep in one game, and there are some games where he didn’t knock down any at all. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because two details are really important in the equation: he wasn’t a high volume shooter from the perimeter, but also he usually found other ways to be productive when his shot wasn’t falling. Example: in Marquette’s win against Creighton on December 14th, Garcia was 0 for 2 from deep, but still finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds. This is what should be expected of stretch bigs, so Garcia’s three-point shooting should fit into Hubert Davis’ system just fine.

While UNC’s freshmen were up and down all last season, Garcia was the top freshman in the Big East in scoring and rebounding, and was second in field goal percentage. When it came to how he stacked up against the entire conference, Garcia was 13th in scoring, and 11th in rebounding and field goal percentage. Simply put: Hubert Davis secured one of the better players available in the transfer portal, especially when factoring in the fact that Garcia is only a sophomore.

To dive into some of the particulars, Garcia weighs in at 6’11, 235-lbs. He has good handles for a player his size, which is highlighted by his ability to make plays off of the dribble. We already discussed how he can knock down shots from deep, but he is also a guy that can knock down mid-range shots as well. It’s no secret that a lot of coaches hate their players taking that shot, but we still don’t really know exactly what Hubert Davis does and doesn’t want to see, so we will find out soon enough if he is willing to let his guys take that shot regularly.

To briefly revisit Garcia being able to make plays off the dribble, take a look at this highlight video at the 1:07 mark.

Garcia sets a screen and gets open on the perimeter, then when he gets the ball, he pump fakes, cuts to the left of his defender, drives, and then works his way around the second defender for the layup and draws the foul from the third defender. We haven’t seen a Tar Heel big man do something like that in a long time, and to have someone with his size, athleticism, and ability to earn respect from the perimeter is really exciting.

When it comes to his defensive ability, here is what Hubert Davis had to say when he was interviewed after Garcia’s transfer announcement:

“I don’t think people understand how good he can be defensively. In high school he was one of the few players I watched who could guard all five positions.”

Overall, Dawson Garcia will be one of the most important players on this year’s team. He is a proven scoring threat, someone who can get to the boards, and is a versatile defender. It’s unclear whether or not he will be a starter, but either way I expect him to get a lot of minutes during his sophomore campaign. My guess is that he will end up being one of the best players on the roster, but we will have to wait and see how everything shakes out.