Prior to Day 1 of ABCD Camp, only six coaches -- those at DePaul, Virginia Tech, St. John's, Richmond, Providence and Rutgers -- really knew who John Garcia was. They are the coaches of the schools which have offered scholarships to the 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior-to-be from Bay Shore, N.Y.
But that all changed Thursday, as hundreds of coaches, assistants and recruiters saw Garcia put on one of the best shows of the day, combining for 28 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks in his first two games of the camp, which features some of the best high school talent from all over the country.
And after his performances, Garcia was mobbed by several members of the media, too, eager to find out how this kid could be this good -- especially after the first half of Game 1, when he scored only two points and generally didn't play well.
"My first half was a little sketchy because it was my first time here and no one had really seen me before," Garcia said. "But I got better."
That he did. Garcia rebounded from that half with a 13-point, 5-rebound second half, dominating the squad dubbed the Bucks -- which included fellow Rutgers target Kahiem Seawright -- and leading his Celtics to a 72-71 victory.
So what changed in Garcia's game at halftime?
"My strength is my inside touch and rebounding," he said.
In that second half, 8 of Garcia's 13 points came on pretty inside moves that left several defenders scratching their heads. And defensively, Garcia owned the boards. Even though he collected only five rebounds in the second half, he was very active, tapping several loose balls to teammates and coming up with a couple of very timely steals.
But to avoid repeat performances of that dismal first half, Garcia has a few things he needs to work on -- and he knows it.
"I need to improve my foot speed and work on my lateral movement," he said.
Garcia also needs to avoid his tendency to lose concentration and focus during the game. At several points -- in both games -- Garcia stayed back in the defensive end while his team was on offense and vice-versa.
But his potential for greatness is just that -- too great. And that's what has attracted Rutgers and the other would-be suitors over the past few weeks. Rutgers is especially interested in him, and that interest might have peaked after he dominated fellow Scarlet Knight target Tyrell Biggs in his second game.
Defended by Biggs, Garcia had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals -- both off Biggs -- in a 66-49 victory for Garcia's Celtics over Biggs' Mavs. Two of those points came on a Julius Irving-style baby hook -- right over the long, outstretched arms of Biggs, who could only watch as the ball hit nothing but net.
Biggs, no slouch himself at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, posted 7 points and 8 rebounds but struggled mightily from the field, horribly bricking several mid-range jumpers. For more on Biggs' Thursday and Friday performances, log in to RutgersFan.com early Saturday morning.
Biggs' performance likely didn't diminish his value in the eyes of Rutgers coaches; they'll be back there today scouting him. But for Garcia, it likely opened wide the eyes of the Rutgers coaching staff, which Thursday was represented by Garland Mance. And according to Garcia, the interest is quite mutual.
"They called me and had really high interest," said Garcia, who has been to Rutgers and said he loves the facilities. "I like them, too. I could see myself there."
There's one caveat with that endorsement, however: Garcia isn't planning on making a decision on where he'll attend college until just before the start of his high school season, which means November. Rutgers -- and many other schools -- might not be willing to wait that long for an answer.
But if Garcia continues to put on a show like he did Thursday, his stock might rise so fast he'll have no choice but to verbal to the school that offers him what he wants most: a chance to play.
If you're interested in seeing Garcia play in person, he'll be in two more games each of the next two days. Today, you can see him at 4:30 on Court 3 or 9:30 on Court 4. On Saturday, he'll be on Court 2 at 2:00 and Court 4 at 7:00.