Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — John Garcia is about to enter his fourth season at Seton Hall. Whether it proves to be his last year with the Pirates remains unclear, but Garcia hopes it’s his best.
A 6-foot-9, 265-pound forward/center from Brentwood, N.Y., Garcia says he feels ready to go after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
“I tore my meniscus during the season,” he said during Seton Hall Media Day this past week. “It was a freak thing that happened in the South Florida game and I just played through it the last 12, 13 games. It effected me a little bit. I got it taken care of as soon as the season ended.
“[I want to] go out there and stay healthy for the whole year. Not have any problems with my knee, I think it’s going to be fine this year. Hopefully, [I can] make second- or first-team Big East. That’s been one of my goals since I came out of high school. I think I’m fully healthy and I’m ready to fulfill my potential.”
Garcia, who redshirted the 2005-06 season after knee surgery, averaged 6.9 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds while playing in all 32 games and making 19 starts.
With only a few experienced big men on a roster that currently features just eight eligible players, Garcia figures to play major minutes for Bobby Gonzalez’s club this year. He and fellow big man Mike Davis must avoid foul trouble.
“Me and Mike got to be a little more smart about that, and hopefully stay out of foul trouble because we do have less bodies, so there’s definitely more emphasis on that,” Garcia said.
Gonzalez previously told ZAGSBLOG that Garcia may finish up his Seton Hall career this season, giving the Pirates an extra scholarship in 2009.
“John Garcia’s a senior, but he could be a junior,” Gonzalez said in July. “So we may move him along after next year depending on what’s going on with his knee. If we did that, we would have John’s scholarship and Paul Gause’s scholarship. So that’s two definite seniors. We would get Austin Okosun’s (ship) back. So we know we will have at least three scholarships.”
Garcia said he would consult with Gonzalez and his family before making that decision.
“I still have another year of eligibility so we’ll see what happens at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m on track to graduate in May and then I have to decide. I’ll sit down with my parents and see what we gotta do. It’s kind of tough right now financially for my family, so there are a lot of things I got to take into consideration.
“I’m concerned about this year.”
Meantime, here are Garcia’s thoughtful comments on several of his teammates…
ON SOPHOMORE F/C MIKE DAVIS“Mike really was surprising. He really surprised me. He came back this year in great shape and he just looks like a different person going through the drills. Last year you could still see there was a lot of rust in him. He was a little behind and he looked like he hadn’t played ball in a while. He looks a lot more comfortable on the court and he’s in a lot better shape and he’s running up and down the floor a lot easier. Hopefully the way Mike is right now, hopefully we can get him some good minutes at the four and the five spot. Mike is going to be a big factor for us since we don’t have a lot of big men right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen with [freshman] Melvyn Oliver, so he’s going to be a big factor this year.”
ON JUNIOR G/F ROBERT “STIX” MITCHELL“He’s unstoppable. I don’t really know what to say about Stix. He can pretty much score at will. I think he’s going to help us out a lot more. No offense to Brian [Laing], but I think Stix is a lot better playmaker. When he gets the ball, he can create a lot more plays for other guys and he can score. He can fill it up. I think it’s kind of a tie between who’s a better shooter. I think him and Jeremy [Hazell]. I think Stix is a little more consistent. Jeremy is more streaky, he can go on a run. but Stix, whenever he’s open, he’s making that shot.”
ON JUNIOR POINT EUGENE “NUNU” HARVEY
“He’s a completely different person. I’m proud of him because he’s a whole different person. His demeanor, he’s matured a lot. It looks like he’s ready to take that next step. He didn’t have as good a year as a lot of people expected him to have last year. He has a whole new focus. He’s a leader on the court right now. This is the most I’ve heard Nunu talk on and off the court, as far as being a leader and trying to motivate guys. He’s a whole different person. I think he’s going to have the best year since he’s been at Seton Hall.”
ON FRESHMAN G JORDAN THEODORE HELPING NUNU
“Definitely, I think [Harvey] knows that he’s got some help now. He doesn’t have to put so much pressure on himself, being the only point guard on the team. He knows that he’s got a really capable backup right now who could really come in and it won’t be a big drop-off when Jordan comes in. He knows that we have somebody who can come in for him. I think he’s ready to take that next step. He has that look in him that he’s ready to do that.”
ON SOPHOMORE G JEREMY HAZELL“I don’t know what to say about Jeremy. He was killing this whole summer when we played summer ball. He was doing his thing. I think he ‘s on his way to being a first-team Big East player. I think he will average about 17, 18 points a game this year, definitely.”
ON HAZELL BEING MORE OF A SLASHER
“That’s something that he definitely worked on this offseason. He usually does it a lot when we play open gyms or practice. In the games, he didn’t really do it last year.”
ON PLAYING WITH 8 GUYS
“I think we can do it. Syracuse did it. They had about 8, 9 scholarship guys, they won a few games. I think we can do the same thing. When it comes down to it, guys gotta have it in their minds that every game it’s just us. We gotta go to war. We got 8, 9 guys, it don’t matter if we got 5 guys. We just gotta go out there and go to war.”
(Photos courtesy Seton Hall athletics)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.