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Gophers men’s basketball: Incoming Dawson Garcia needs hardship waiver to play next season

The NCAA now allows student-athletes one opportunity to transfer schools and not be forced to sit out a season. The 6-foot-11 Garcia used that when he went from Marquette to North Carolina between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at North Carolina
University of North Carolina forward Dawson Garcia (13) handles the ball against Michigan on Dec. 1, 2021, at Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Garcia transferred to the University of Minnesota for the upcoming season. Garcia is from Prior Lake, Minnesota.
USA Today Sports file photo
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Former McDonald’s All-American Dawson Garcia is officially a Gophers men’s basketball player, but the Prior Lake, Minnesota, native needs a waiver to be eligible for the upcoming season.

The NCAA now allows student-athletes one opportunity to transfer schools and not be forced to sit out a season. The 6-foot-11 Garcia used that when he went from Marquette to North Carolina between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

Garcia left the Tar Heels program in January after his family suffered heavy losses related to COVID-19. Gophers coach Ben Johnson tried Thursday to characterize the chance Garcia has to receive a hardship waiver.

“You never know,” Johnson said. “I’m not gonna get into depth about it, but it’s got some pretty legitimate and hard-hitting stuff. But again, you kind of never know. So we’ll go through that process and see where it takes us.”

Johnson cited Garcia’s best game last season. In the Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Purdue, Garcia had 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, with three made 3-pointers and eight rebounds. It was one of three times in 16 games he scored over 20 points.

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Johnson said he has known Garcia since he came to the Gophers’ team camp when he was a freshman in high school.

“He is excited to be able to be back, excited to have the opportunity to play here in front of friends and family,” Johnson said. “He knows some of the players on our team, so (he is) excited to play with those guys. I think he’s just ready to get to work. He’s ready to just kind of hone his craft and get better. The kid’s always been about improving.”

Garcia averaged 13 points and 6.6 rebounds and shot 36 percent from 3-point range in 27 games in the Big East Conference two years ago with Marquette. He averaged 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds and shot 37 percent from deep in 16 games in the ACC a year ago.

Open spots

The Gophers have a few vacant scholarships right now, and Johnson does not expect filling all of them going into next season.

“I probably won’t use all of them,” Johnson said. “I just think, man, with the portal the way it is now. It is so hard to … I looked at it 100,000 times, to even play nine guys is hard. And I think right now we’re right around 10. If we get one more, I think that would be (it).”

The Gophers have four returning scholarship players (Jamison Battle, Isaiah Ihnen, Parker Fox and Treyton Thompson), four incoming high school freshmen (Braeden Carrington, Pharrell Payne, Josh Ola-Joseph and Jaden Henley) and two transfers (Garcia and Ta’Lon Cooper). That adds up to 10 scholarship players, with 13 total spots available.

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“I think right now I feel pretty good about our players,” Johnson said. “I think if we could add depth, maybe a combo (guard) piece. Probably lean that way a little bit.”

Johnson would like that point guard/shooting guard to be able to take some of the primary ball-handling pressure off Cooper, the transfer from Morehead State.

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They will have four new starters next season; Battle is the only returner.

Briefly

The Gophers finished up spring workouts a few days ago and are in a dead period as players are in the middle of class finals. The players will be off until early June and they will start their eight weeks of workouts the second week of June. … Fox and Ihnen, who are coming off season-ending knee injuries, have yet to participate in full-contact five-on-five work. They are expected to get that chance this summer. … Johnson loves 6-foot-9 Ihnen’s versatility to play and guard multiple positions. … Johnson said monitoring the transfer portal can be addicting. “It’s an every five-minute thing,” he said. “It’s a sickness. It really is. Now that it’s winding down, you kind of have withdrawals because you are used to the constant update.”

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