The 2020-21 college basketball season is right around the corner, no matter what the coronavirus pandemic says, so let’s get into the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We’ll be going through the players one by one: First MU’s freshmen in alphabetical order, then the immediately eligible sophomore transfer, then the redshirt freshman, and then the five returning players, going in order of average minutes per game last season from lowest to highest.
We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories:
- Reasonable Expectations
- Why You Should Get Excited
- Potential Pitfalls
With that out of the way, we kick things off with the top rated recruit in Marquette’s 2020 recruiting class.........
Freshman - #33 - Forward - 6’11” - 235 lbs. - Prior Lake, Minnesota
Well, let’s just come out and say it, shall we? Dawson Garcia is the fourth best prospect to enroll at Marquette this century. Garcia comes into Marquette as the #36 recruit in the Class of 2020 according to 247 Sports and their always helpful Composite system. He’s the fourth best power forward in the recruiting class, and the third best behind two top 10 guys if you knock Isaiah Todd out of the way because he elected to go with the G League Select route. The only Marquette recruits since 2000 that graded out better than Garcia in 247’s eyes were Henry Ellenson (#9 in 2015), Vander Blue (#28 in 2010), and Jajuan Johnson (#32 in 2013). Rivals has Garcia at #43 in the country, while ESPN put him at #49. The other two guys in the recruiting class are doing their part to be clear, but Garcia is a big reason why Marquette has the #21 recruiting class in the country and the #1 recruiting class in the Big East.
Here are some fun facts about Garcia from the athletic department’s press release announcing the arrival of his letter of intent a year ago:
- won a gold medal this summer at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup, scoring a tournament high 52 points and earning tournament MVP honors
- averaged 27.5 points and 11.0 rebounds for Prior Lake as a junior
- led Prior Lake to their first ever Minnesota Class 4A sectional final and guided them to 25 wins, the most in program history
So that seems fun.
He stands close to 6-foot-10, sports a college ready frame that should only get stronger in due time, and a quality skillset that can impact the game in the half-court setting.
A giant pick-up for Steve Wojciechowski and his program, Garcia will be a day one producer in Milwaukee. The lefty is someone that Marquette has failed to showcase in recent years. He is a go-to weapon in the frontcourt that can extend the defense via the perimeter jumper, put the ball on the floor on the straight-line attack, rebound in traffic and defend more than just one position.
That also seems like fun.
Thanks to the always helpful Boys’ Basketball Hub from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, we know that Garcia had a stellar senior season for Prior Lake. In the 27 games that they have stats for, he averaged 31.6 points per game while shooting 55% from the field, 39% from long range, and 78% from the charity stripe. If you like the fancy numbers, Garcia posted an effective field goal percentage of 61.3% as a senior. For those of you playing along at home — and yes, there’s a huge difference between the Big East and Twin Cities area high schools, but you get the idea here — Markus Howard’s best eFG% at Marquette was 65.8% in his freshman year when he hit 55% of his threes. In other statistical news, Garcia chipped in 9.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, although the Hub only has 26 games of stats in those categories.
Here’s a three minute senior year highlight reel:
I guess we have to start our reasonable expectations off with the fact that Garcia has already been named Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year. Fair or not, but if the coaches think that Garcia is the best freshman coming into the league this season, then I guess we have to set the bar at “is in the running for the postseason version” at the very least.
Let’s turn our attention to T-Rank. While KenPom.com doesn’t give us any data on players until there are official stats on the page to deal with, Bart Torvik’s system gives us projections for the upcoming season before it starts. T-Rank’s calculations for Garcia says the following: 10.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists. That’s by way of an offensive rating of 103 and a usage rate of 21%. It also says 66% of minutes played, and I think that’s where I get my biggest quibble with this, but we’ll circle back to this in a minute.
Let’s just be honest about this: Garcia didn’t agree to play for Steve Wojciechowski in order to be the fifth banana on this team. I don’t know where things are officially going to shake out, and there’s a very real chance that even the coaching staff is going to change their views on the hierarchy of things as the season develops. Still, I think it’s safe to say that Marquette is going to get their very tall, very agile, and very talented star freshman as involved as his production allows him to get involved this season. If everything’s going well and he’s hitting his shots and not committing all of the turnovers, then you can probably expect Marquette to rely on him.
Why You Should Get Excited
This is simple, I think.
I’m pretty sure that the 66% of minutes played thing on T-Rank’s projection is absolute garbage. Not that the algorithm that led the computer to spit it out is garbage, I think it’s wildly underestimating what Steve Wojciechowski is going to want to do with Garcia.
As mentioned earlier, Garcia is the best Marquette prospect to enroll since Henry Ellenson. Since Ellenson was also a Wojciechowski recruit, I feel that at least checking on the general concepts of how Ellenson’s season went is useful here. After all, there’s a certain amount of similarity in the roster standing going from 2014-15 to 2015-16 as there is from last year to this year. There’s a bit of a vacuum in terms of notable returning contributors, y’know.
Ellenson played 82.6% of minutes during his one year at Marquette and started every game. I don’t think it’s crazy to expect the same kind of playing time for Garcia, honestly. If that’s the case, I think we can adjust those T-Rank projections. If we think we can expect Garcia to play that much, that’s about a 25% increase from the projected minutes on T-Rank. Give each of the stats a 25% boost and you get: 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. Now, that’s a bit down from Ellenson’s 17/10/2. However, Ellenson had a usage rate of nearly 26% according to KenPom, which is a bit higher than the projected 21% for Garcia. If the big man from Minnesota ends up as the top option on offense for the Golden Eagles? Sky’s the limit on that stat line.
Think about all of this another way: What if Henry Ellenson was actually a very good three-point shooter? Ellenson put together the best statistical freshman year in Marquette history..... while shooting a Myles Powell-esque 29% from behind the arc. Garcia’s better than that. If he can translate that 39% to college, of course.
Dawson Garcia is a top 50 recruit because he’s very tall, he runs the floor very well, he can handle the ball well enough at worst for a guy his size, and he can rain threes in at a rate that would be great even if he wasn’t 6’11”. You’ll notice the very offensively skewed reasoning behind all of that. Items #1 and #2, though, have an impact on the defensive end, and that’s where we might run into problems.
If you’re like me and you expect Dawson Garcia to start right out of the gate for Marquette, then you probably picture him playing the 4 in the lineup next to Theo John’s 5. This is likely a situation that will work out well for Marquette. Where it might not work out well for Marquette is if Theo John can’t stay on the floor. That’s a legitimate problem, as last season was the first time in his three years at Marquette where he managed to surpass 50% of minutes played. If John isn’t the one playing rim protector..... then I think that job might end up falling to Garcia....... and that’s not necessarily great news.
Now, it’s not bad. Garcia is actually the tallest player on the team, and his status as third heaviest (both John and Justin Lewis (!) are 245 lb.) goes somewhat hand in hand there. It would appear that he has the physical stature to pull this off. But the same could be said for Henry Ellenson at 6’11” and 245, and he had absolutely zero business playing the 5 on defense. Had to happen sometimes though, because Luke Fischer couldn’t be on the floor, and it generally speaking didn’t go well. Marquette already has something of a defensive problem under Steve Wojciechowski, with #45 in 2018-19 reigning as the best KenPom defense that we’ve seen. If Garcia is going to play big minutes, then he’s going to have to play defense for a lot of the time out there. If he’s the 4? I don’t worry too much. If he’s the 5? I’m a little worried that he’s not going to be able to hold up his end of the deal if he’s called on to do that a lot.
There is, of course, the other aspect of Garcia to consider. Namely: What if none of his stuff works at the next level up? Sometimes, when you’re 6’11” and you move really well, you can get away with a lot of teeny errors when you’re playing high school basketball or even club circuit basketball. There aren’t a lot of guys anywhere close to your size, and combining the size and the agility? Good luck finding someone between the ages of 14 and 18 to keep up with you. College basketball is a whole different deal. Everybody here was a star on their high school team or on their club team. Lots of guys are really tall. It’s a little bit faster and a little bit quicker and a little bit stronger. What if all of that is a little bit too much for Garcia to adjust to as the Golden Eagles are largely speaking thrown straight into the fire out of the gate in terms of strength of schedule?