If you thought it felt like things were almost too quiet in terms of Marquette men’s basketball roster news after the termination of Steve Wojciechowski’s contract and the subsequent hiring of Shaka Smart to replace him, then that was a pretty good instinct, as it turns out. On Monday evening, Marquette freshman forward Dawson Garcia announced via Instagram that he will be entering the 2021 NBA Draft without hiring an agent.
Here’s what his message says:
After much reflection and several conversations with my family, friends, and coaches, I have decided to go through the NBA Draft evaluation process without hiring an agent. I look forward to going through the process, gathering information, and making the best decision possible regarding my future. It has always been my dream to play in the NBA. If the feedback I receive from NBA Scouts and executives recommends that I return to school to work on my game, I will do so.
Last season presented a unique set of challenges, but I am proud of how we persevered as a team. I would like to thank my teammates, the coaching staff and MU Nation for their support.
Garcia was a Minute One starter for Wojciechowski in the 2020-21 season, and it was well deserved. The 6’11” Minnesota native led Marquette in scoring (13.0 points/game) and rebounding (6.6/game) while shooting 48% from the field, 53% on two-pointers, 36% on three-pointers, and 78% from the free throw line. He was an incredibly efficient player, and he contributed all over the floor. His 8.9% offensive rebounding rate ranked #289 in the country per KenPom.com, and he ended up just inside the top 500 in terms of turnover rate as well. He made excellent use of his inside/outside game to rank amongst the national leaders in fouls drawn per 40 minutes as well as the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts.
In fact, the biggest criticism that you can level at Garcia’s freshman year isn’t actually one you can level at Garcia himself. Repeatedly throughout the season, I found myself asking why the coaching staff wasn’t dialing up Garcia’s number on offense more. He led the Golden Eagles in scoring, but there were 13 games where Garcia did not even attempt 10 shots. That’s almost half of the 27 game season! Still, even with that being the case, and even with Marquette playing fewer games than in any season since 1979-80, Garcia still ended up with the ninth most points scored in a freshman campaign and the fourth most rebounds gathered up.
Is Garcia a 2021 NBA Draft prospect? Probably not. ESPN’s Big Board goes out to 100 players, and Garcia is not listed. That might be an issue of “didn’t expect him to declare” as opposed to “isn’t a prospect,” though. NBA Draft Room projects him as a second round pick in the 2021 or 2022 drafts. Sports Illustrated put together a top 60 ranking — there’s only 60 picks in the NBA Draft, after all — in February and Garcia is not in it.
That doesn’t mean Garcia is making a mistake in declaring for the draft. In fact, I think this is a pretty smart decision to the point where I’m trying to figure out what took him so long to make a smart decision like this, and quite honestly, more college players should do this. If NBA decision makers take a look at what Garcia brings to the table and says “nope, and it’s because of this, this, and this,” then he knows exactly what he needs to spend the summer working on to help him reach his dream of playing in the league. There’s essentially zero downside to this for him, other than it’s probably not fun to hear NBA scouts tell you what’s so wrong with your game that they absolutely would not draft you at the moment.
It’s worth noting that Garcia said that he will return to “school” if that’s what his evaluation tells him to do, not return to Marquette. You can argue that they’re one and the same at this point since Garcia is not entering the transfer portal and declaring for the draft at the same time if you want. The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing stopping Garcia from hearing back from the NBA evaluators that he isn’t draft-ready and then electing to transfer. It wouldn’t be particularly smart, since that would mean not making himself available to other college programs and coaches for another few weeks if not a month or two, but it is possible.
The NBA’s date to withdraw from the draft is July 19th, with the actual draft coming 10 days after that. However, the NCAA’s policy on withdrawal to maintain your eligibility is 10 days after the end of the NBA Draft Combine, which is scheduled to run from June 21 to June 27. 10 days after that is July 7th. We’re clearly a loooooooooong time off from that, so don’t expect to know anything one way or another any time soon.
Let’s drop in the ol’ scholarship chart here real quick-like.
If Garcia elects to stay in the draft, that could give Marquette five spots on the 2021-22 roster that are not currently filled depending on what happens to former walk-on Tommy Gardiner and his surgically repaired knee. Shaka Smart has some irons in the fire to fill some spots, most notably former Texas signees David Joplin and Tamar Bates, so there’s no reason to worry about Marquette not being able to have bodies available when it comes time to jump it up at Fiserv Forum again this fall.