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Originally published January 25, 2010 at 6:48 PM | Page modified January 26, 2010 at 9:09 AM

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Corrected version

Huskies can only wonder how much Charles Garcia might have helped this season

Charles Garcia couldn't get into the University of Washington, but things have worked out just fine for him at Seattle U., where he has become a possible first-round NBA draft choice.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For many Washington basketball fans, Tuesday night might be their first chance to get an in-person look at Seattle University sensation Charles Garcia as the Huskies and Redhawks face off at Edmundson Pavilion.

And as they do, one question will linger. How much different might UW's season — venturing into vast disappointment status at 12-7 overall — have been had Garcia been admitted into school?

It's a question UW's players admit they ponder.

"He would have been a key player for us," says guard Isaiah Thomas, who played with Garcia in summer pickup games. Garcia signed with UW in November 2008 but was denied enrollment, then enrolled at Seattle U. to play for new coach Cameron Dollar. As an assistant at UW, Dollar had helped recruit Garcia to UW after Garcia played junior-college ball in California.

Asked if Garcia's presence might have meant an additional win or two for the Huskies, Thomas shook his head. "Not just a win or two," he said. "A lot (of wins)."

While UW has struggled to get consistent play from its big men, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Garcia has blossomed at Seattle U., averaging 20.7 points and 9.1 rebounds, emerging as a potential first-round NBA draft pick this year. He is only a junior but has said he will consider his options after the season, meaning Tuesday night's game could be his only one against the Huskies (and it's sure to be his only appearance at Hec Ed. The teams play next season at KeyArena).

"I wish he was here," said senior forward Quincy Pondexter. "He's something we miss."

Just how much, however, is obviously conjecture.

For one thing, everyone agrees that Garcia probably wouldn't be close to putting up the numbers he has at Seattle U. — where he is the team's main scoring option. At UW he would have had to share the ball with Pondexter and Thomas.

Washington assistant coach Jim Shaw said Garcia "would have been a significant contributor" and that he likely would have been among the team's top three scorers and top two rebounders.

Shaw said the most impressive of Garcia's stats is his 228 free throws attempted — 47 more than any other player in the country, giving clear evidence of his elite-level athleticism.

Asked in December how he thought his career might have unfolded at UW, Garcia (kept off-limits to the media the past week) agreed he wouldn't have had the freedom to post the same kind of stats.

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"I wouldn't be putting up the same numbers I'm putting up now," he said. "Like 12 points a game or something like that. But my talents would have showed, for sure."

Most intriguing to wonder is whether the talents of Garcia that most interest the NBA — including his uncommon ball-handling ability for a player his size — would have been as consistently on display at UW.

Washington signed Garcia with the plan that he would provide immediate help up front to make up for the loss of Jon Brockman. Dollar has said he wasn't completely aware of Garcia's ball-handling abilities until the player arrived at Seattle U., began playing in pickup games and other Redhawks came back with glowing reports. Dollar quickly adjusted Garcia's game, and while Garcia does his share of typical big-man duty for Seattle U., it's not uncommon for him to bring the ball upcourt.

Also worth wondering is whether Garcia would have risen so quickly to potential first-round NBA draft status had he become a Husky. The fact that Garcia has been able to play a more dominant role at Seattle U. — in its first year of playing a full Division-I schedule since 1980 — has many thinking it's been a blessing in disguise for his long-term future that he ended up with the Redhawks.

"I know how bad he wanted to be here," Pondexter said. "But I don't think he would have changed his situation for anything."

Notes

• Backup guard Garrett Lever, a key defensive player for the Redhawks, should be able to play after suffering a sprained ankle last week in a victory over Cal State-Northridge.

• Seattle U. will wear throwback uniforms for the game reminiscent of those worn during the program's late-1950s heyday. And instead of wearing their own numbers, players will wear those of past Seattle U. greats. Garcia will wear the number 22 of Elgin Baylor and guard Chris Gweth the No. 21 of Eddie Miles.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Information in this story, published Jan. 25, was corrected Jan. 26. Charles Garcia will wear No. 22 during tonight's game.

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