After 'tough decision' to return, Gophers' Dawson Garcia has big aspirations

Garcia had 'major options' to play elsewhere this season.
Butler guard Posh Alexander, left, defends Minnesota forward Dawson Garcia (3) during the first half of an NCAA/NIT game, Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis.
Butler guard Posh Alexander, left, defends Minnesota forward Dawson Garcia (3) during the first half of an NCAA/NIT game, Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis. / Doug McSchooler/for IndyStar / USA TODAY

The Gophers men’s basketball team lost some key contributors to the transfer portal this offseason, part of the new reality of college sports in the name, image and likeness (NIL) era. 

But the Gophers’ leading scorer last season, Dawson Garcia, stayed in Dinkytown for another year. That wasn’t because of a lack of opportunity elsewhere, Gophers coach Ben Johnson said. 

“(Garcia) had some major options. I hope people understand that,” Johnson told reporters at a media availability Monday. “But he came back for all the right reasons, and then it’s our job to build a quality team around him and give him and ourselves the best opportunity to have success this year. But I like kinda the early stages of where we’re at.” 

Garcia himself said it was a crazy time during the offseason. While he never entered the transfer portal, it appears Garcia had no shortage of suitors. And Garcia also has NBA aspirations. Garcia said it was a “very tough decision,” but ultimately his faith led him to stay in Minnesota another year. 

“You get things thrown at you all the time that are very tempting, but at the end of the day, you have to stay true to your roots,” Garcia said. 

Garcia led the Gophers in scoring last season, averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Garcia was an All-Big Ten second-team selection — one of three Gophers to net All-Big Ten honors — last season, but he has his sights set on even bigger things this year. 

“I’ve got All-American aspirations, Big Ten Player of the Year aspirations, like I’m coming back — I’m not coming back to just play around,” Garcia said. “So I’m excited and some of the things, pushing the ball up the floor, becoming more of a playmaker and then getting in on that rim more aggressively, that’s what I’m planning to do.”  

Garcia will have a very different roster around him this season as the Gophers retooled following several departures. Minnesota added big men Frank Mitchell and Trey Edmonds and guards Femi Odukale, Lu’Cye Patterson and Brennan Rigsby via the transfer portal. 

Minnesota also brings in freshmen Isaac Asuma and Grayson Grove as well as walk-ons Lincoln Meister and Max Sheridan. The team's returners include Garcia, guard Mike Mitchell Jr. and forwards Kadyn Betts and Parker Fox. It’ll certainly be a much different team than a season ago, but Johnson has liked what he’s seen from his new team in the early practices.

And while much of the team is new, Johnson is certainly appreciative to have Garica as a constant.


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Nolan O'Hara

NOLAN O'HARA