SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Is Charles Garcia ready for the NBA?
Seattle’s star junior gives away his answer by revealing a gap-toothed grin before saying, “I think I’m ready.”
That emphatic statement, he said, should provide a bit of a hint as to his mindset heading into an offseason that could see the 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward go from community college to declaring for the NBA draft in only two seasons.
Twenty-two NBA scouts were credentialed to attend Seattle’s 90-88 win against San Jose State on Monday, with the talent evaluators filling up press row while empty seats dotted the front row at The Event Center. The 14-14 Redhawks, currently making the transition to Division I, have become a somewhat of a traveling circus.
“I like to say rock band,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “They’ve followed us all year long.”
And for a fourth straight game, the scouts needed to wait to see the main attraction. Garcia, who leads the team with 19.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, has been coming off the bench.
Dollar said Garcia’s absence from the starting lineup had more to do with teammates who were showing the most effort in practice getting rewarded. Dollar also noted scouts might also be getting a preview of how the project that is Garcia might respond to sitting during his developmental years in the NBA.
Maturity has admittedly been a question mark for Garcia, who is attending his fifth school (Sacramento State, Diablo Valley College, Riverside Community College and Yuba College came before Seattle).
A 4-inch growth spurt after high school and impressive performances in Riverside led to Garcia signing a national letter of intent to play at Washington, but the school did not admit him due to academics.
Garcia also had prematurely left the RCC program, with coach John Smith struggling to get him to buy into playing defense and Garcia frustrated with playing predominantly the low block.
Smith said Garcia was a big teddy bear at heart.
“He’s so easily influenced that anybody can say, ‘Hey, you ain’t got to worry about [defense]. You have the NBA,’” Smith said. “He may listen and shut it down.”
Garcia said he’s done a lot of growing up and changed his ways under the former Washington assistant Dollar, who sent a message with the recent benching, but also has allowed the raw talent to handle the ball and shoot it where he feels comfortable doing it.
Garcia entered the game leading the nation in scoring per 40 minutes averaging 29.3 points, and looks the part with his quickness, wingspan and ability to handle the ball at his size.
He also shoots .267 from three-point range and .617 from the free throw line despite leading the nation in attempts at the charity stripe.
Still, the ability was always off the charts. Long before the scouts started showing up to Seattle games in droves, Smith was so certain Garcia was NBA material that he brought Nuggets assistant Tim Grgurich, Smith’s former coach at UNLV, to Riverside just to get a sneak peak at the kid.
After scoring 17 of his 20 points in the second half, Garcia said it’s still nerve-wracking to have scouts eyeballing him, but that he hasn’t made his NBA aspirations a distraction.
His current goal is to get to New York, and by that, he doesn’t mean the Knicks. Seattle isn’t eligible to play in the NCAA tournament, and the next best thing would be reaching the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden.
Also staged at MSG? The NBA draft, coming in June.