Elite Recruit Dawson Garcia Rises to New Challenge in 3x3 Game
It’s special for any basketball fan to have the Final Four come to their hometown. For Dawson Garcia, it was the beginning of a new journey in the sport.
The weekend before he took the court for the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s 3x3 U18 National Championship in April, the Prior Lake, Minnesota, native got the chance to see how 3x3 was played up close. He’d never formally played 3x3 before.
“The weekend before (the national championships), some college players came up to the Mall of America and were playing, so that was the first time I saw the way that they played it,” Garcia said. “Other than that, I didn’t know any of the rules when I showed up.”
And when he showed up, all he did was earn a trip to Mongolia.
Garcia, a 17-year-old who plays at Prior Lake High School just south of the Twin Cities, was named MVP in helping Attack go 8-0 at the 3x3 national championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That same group — Garcia, Devin Askew(Mater Dei H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.),Nimari Burnett (Prolific Prep/Chicago, Ill.) and Ethan Morton(Butler H.S./Butler, Pa.) — will represent the U.S. at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from June 3-7. The U.S. faces Latvia, Georgia, Belarus and host Mongolia in group play.
“Yeah, the first couple games (at the national championships) were definitely some learning bumps, but as we kept going, me and my teammates felt more comfortable with each other and started sharing the ball more,” Garcia said.
The 3x3 format will make its debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Games are played on half a traditional court and are 10 minutes, unless a team reaches 21 points before time expires, with a 2-point line and a 12-second shot clock.
“It was a little weird at first, but the coaches did a good job showing us the rules right away,” Garcia said of getting acquainted with the 3x3 format. “We’ve all been playing basketball for a while at a high level so we picked up quick on it for those of us who hadn’t played before.”
Garcia enjoys the quick pace of the 3x3 game and that it emphasizes all-around play.
“You have to be able to play at all levels in 3x3,” Garcia said. “You have to be very versatile. You have to have really good conditioning because in 3x3, the way we play it, is nonstop. When the other team scores, you have to be ready to kick it out for offense or be ready for defense. There’s no breaks in the action.”
Garcia, a 6-foot-11 power forward, developed his skill set through a growth spurt. He was a 6-foot-2 eighth-grader who was already playing guard on the junior varsity, then shot up to 6-foot-8 before his freshman year, moving him to the frontcourt but with the skills of someone from the backcourt.
Now, he is one of the top players in the country. The four-star recruit averaged 27.5 points and 11 rebounds for a Prior Lake team that went 27-4. He plans on narrowing his list of schools to five or seven in July, then make a college choice sometime in the fall.
“Right now, I’m pretty open to every school,” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, he will be making his first trip outside of the country as he represents the U.S. in Mongolia, a country he knows little about but plans to do some research beforehand.
“The long flight will be interesting, (I want to see) how their buildings are set up,” Garcia said. “I’m interested in the food. I know the Mongolian chicken here is very Americanized, so I want to see how it really tastes.”
In addition to a new appreciation for food and culture, Garcia is also hoping to bring home a gold medal. The Americans have medaled once in the six times the tournament has been held, taking the silver in 2012.
“We all can shoot the ball really well, we all can put the ball on the floor as well as play inside,” he said. “I think our team is quick, strong, athletic. Player-wise, we should be really good compared to everyone else. The people (from other countries) have been playing for a while so we have to be quick learners and I think we are very capable of that.”
This will also be Garcia’s first time representing USA Basketball.
“It’s a huge blessing to rep USA across my chest,” Garcia said. “It’s a great experience to play a bunch of different competition from around the world. This will be my first time doing that, so I’m really looking forward to it.”