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Former Lakers are on the Move

05/02/2021, 5:45pm CDT
By Tom Schardin

Dawson Garcia, Robert Jones and Tyree Ihenacho are making bigger moves on the hardwood.

The three were former teammates on the Prior Lake boys basketball team in the 2018-19 season, helping the Lakers to a school-best 25 wins (25-4 overall) and a runner-up finish to Eden Prairie in the Section 2AAAA title game.

Jones was a senior on that squad and has played Division I basketball the last two years at the University of Denver. Garcia and Ihenacho were juniors that season.

Both Garcia and Ihenacho led Prior Lake to 19 wins as seniors with that season ending to unbeaten Eden Prairie in the section semifinals, six days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sports across the country.

Garcia, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, went off to Marquette University last fall, while Ihenacho headed to North Dakota.

So where will all three former Lakers be playing basketball next winter?

Jones has already found a home, transferring to Iowa State. Ihenacho, the Freshman of the Year in the Summit League, is leaving North Dakota, but has yet to make a decision on a new school.

On Twitter, he’s been linked to several mid-major schools and his decision is expected by the end of the month.

Garcia is attempting to make an even bigger jump — to the NBA. He is putting his name into the draft, but retains his college eligibility because he’s not hiring an agent.

Garcia announced his decision via Twitter:

“After much reflection and several conversations with my family, friends and coaches, I have decided to go through the NBA Draft evaluation process without hiring an agent. I look forward to going through the process, gathering information, and making the best decision possible regarding my future.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. If the feedback I receive from NBA scouts and executives recommends that I return to school to work on my game, I will do so.”

The NBA Draft is July 29. The draft combine is June 21-27. The league’s deadline to withdraw from the draft is July 19, although the NCAA’s deadline for a player to maintain college eligibility is usually 10 days after the combine, which would be July 7.

The 6-foot-11 Garcia led the Golden Eagles in scoring and rebounding this past season at 13 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

Garcia, a 2020 McDonald’s All-American, was recruited by Steve Wojciechowski, but he’s no longer the Golden Eagles coach after being fired this past season. Shaka Smart has been hired as the new Marquette coach.

Smart coached at Texas last year and recruited Garcia when he was a senior at Prior Lake, bringing him in for an official visit. So if Garcia decides to forgo the NBA Draft, he will likely return to Marquette and play for Smart.

In his senior year at Prior Lake, Garcia averaged 31.6 points per game, scoring more than 2,000 points in his four-year career. He also made 67 three-pointers and pulled down 9.8 rebounds per game.

Jones at Denver

At Denver, the 6-foot-10 Jones averaged 9.1 points and 5 rebounds per game this past season, starting 14 of the 15 games he played. He shot 53.8% from the field.

As a freshman, Jones appeared in all 31 of the Pioneers’ games, averaging 9 points and 4.7 rebounds, making 57.8% of his shots.

Jones also dominated in his last season at Prior Lake, averaging 17.1 points, 11 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.

“Robert’s motor, enthusiasm and ability to sprint the floor will elevate our program,” new Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said in a press release. “He’s a physical defensive presence who understands protecting the rim. It became clear during the recruiting process that Robert’s top priority was impacting a winning culture. He will certainly have that opportunity here.”

Ihenacho at North Dakota

At North Dakota, it didn’t take long for Ihenacho to make an impact. He was named to the Summit League’s All-Newcomer Team. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in his first season.

Ihenacho was North Dakota’s third-leading scorer. He was also the only player in the Summit League to ranked in the top 10 in rebounding (10th), assists (second) and steals (third) and was a finalist for the Kyle Macy National Freshman of the Year.

Ihenacho only played for Prior Lake his junior and senior seasons.

As a junior, he averaged 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He averaged 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists as a senior for the Lakers.

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