Seattle U. Men's Hoops | Big recruit goes from Huskies to Redhawks
In a strange twist, 6-foot-10 Charles Garcia was not admitted to Washington but Seattle U. coach Cameron Dollar stepped up and wanted him for the Redhawks.
Seattle Times staff reporter
He's happy and playing basketball in Seattle, and ultimately, that's all that really matters to Charles Garcia.
"I feel comfortable and I'm always having a smile on my face," he said. "So far, so good."
Garcia spoke those words earlier this week, however, sitting on a chair in the Connolly Center at Seattle University, a few miles away from where he figured he'd be playing this season at the University of Washington.
A year ago this week, Garcia signed to play at Washington, figuring to join Abdul Gaddy and the rest of UW's Class of 2009 in helping the Huskies pick up where they left off, winning the Pac-10 title last season.
With Jon Brockman leaving, UW coach Lorenzo Romar wanted some immediate help up front and thought he'd found it in the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Garcia, who this time a year ago was playing at Riverside (Calif.) Community College.
"He would have fit in just fine," Romar said of Garcia, who grew up in Los Angeles and attended Dorsey High.
But a month or so after the season, Romar got word that Garcia — despite having fulfilled all the academic requirements that UW had set out for him — was not going to be admitted to school. Garcia had even left Riverside CC and not played basketball the last half of last season to transfer to another JC to concentrate solely on finishing his two-year degree.
Romar now politely declines to comment on why Garcia didn't get in.
But Garcia says the school simply looked at his overall body of work and decided not to admit him, even though he had met all the stated requirements.
"They didn't see what they liked and they made their decision not to qualify me, I guess," says the amiable Garcia, who goes by Chuck.
Romar says calling Garcia to tell him he wouldn't be admitted "was one of my toughest athletic moments ever."
Garcia says coach and player were each in tears during the phone conversation.
"When he gave me the call, we both broke down and cried on the phone together," he said.
Garcia said he at least felt heartened that "that was how much he really wanted me. It definitely was disappointing. I worked hard. What I had to do, I did. When I got the call, I was devastated."
By then, Cameron Dollar had moved from being an assistant at UW to head coach at Seattle U. Dollar had been heavily involved in Garcia's recruitment to UW, guiding him through the process to become eligible. And soon after hearing the news of Garcia being denied enrollment at UW, Dollar called his former recruit and offered him a spot at Seattle U. — Garcia met all the normal eligibility requirements to get into Seattle U.
Dollar said he doesn't know what happened with Garcia at UW, but said Seattle U. does not grant any special admits for athletes and Garcia was no exception.
Garcia, who was a Los Angeles All-City first-team pick in 2006, said he'd fallen in love with Seattle during his recruiting process, and again when he took a visit to UW for the Pac-10-title clinching win against WSU. Still, he says, "I definitely didn't know anything about Seattle U. I'd heard of Seattle Pacific, and I thought that's where Cameron was going."
As news leaked that he was not being admitted to UW, Garcia got a call from Syracuse and another from Missouri. Syracuse, in particular, was tempting.
But Garcia liked the relationship he had with Dollar as well as with another Seattle U. assistant, Dwayne Canada. Canada, who had already been hired at Seattle by Dollar, was an assistant at Sacramento State when Garcia briefly attended that school out of high school as a grayshirt before deciding to go the junior-college route.
At Washington or Syracuse Garcia could legitimately think of being part of March Madness. That won't happen at Seattle, where the Redhawks won't be eligible for the NCAA tournament until the 2012-13 season as they transition to full D-I status. This is Seattle U.'s first season playing a full Division I schedule since 1980.
Garcia, though, says he's just fine with Dollar's goal of trying to make the NIT.
"The goal is to go to New York City [where the finals of the NIT are held]," Garcia said. "If we could do that, that would be so big for this program."
Garcia will be the centerpiece of those efforts, even if not quite always the center. Though he is the tallest player on the team, he has skills to play several different positions. Romar compares him to former Huskies Mark Sanford and Detlef Schrempf in his versatility.
Some of that comes from the fact that Garcia was a late bloomer and played point guard most of his life before a growth spurt as a junior in high school.
Dollar says Garcia's package of size and skills makes him potentially the best NBA prospect on any college team in the state.
"He has the ability to play probably two, three positions at that size, and he can shoot it with range and he's fast, athletic and skilled," Dollar said. "And he has the potential to be a really good defender, as well. So when you put all that together — that's no knock on anyone else [in the state] but it just shows you the skill level that be brings."
Garcia flashed a lot of that talent when he scored 27 points in Seattle U.'s exhibition win over Pacific Lutheran on Saturday, hitting 12 of 17 shots, and also grabbing nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
But tougher tests will come quickly. The Redhawks open their regular season Saturday at Oklahoma State, then play at Portland on Tuesday before opening the home schedule Thursday at KeyArena against Fresno State.
It'll mark the beginning of a new era for Seattle U., as well as a coming-out party for Garcia.
"What he is is an extremely talented big man who gives us and gives himself an opportunity to be seen in a light that should do nothing but produce great things for both of us," Dollar said. "It's a win-win for both."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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