One way or another, when Seattle University forward Charles Garcia has the ball in his hands, he's going to do something that makes you shake your head.
In the span of one minute in the first half, he got consecutive defensive rebounds and took the ball coast to coast. On the first, he showed why he's an NBA prospect for most of the season, heading toward the rim with a look of determination and weaving through defenders in the lane to roll a layup around the rim and in. On the second, he showed why he's a falling NBA prospect, doing the almost the exact same thing, but dribbling right into two UC Davis defenders and tossing the ball up in about the middle of the lane and losing it in mid-air, falling to the ground.
It's partially that inconsistent effort and focus - in practice, but translated to game performance -- that made Seattle coach Cameron Dollar decide to take Garcia out of the startling lineup.
"He just told me in practice, ‘Alright just see what happens these next two games - see where you'll be at'," said Garcia. "He's a man of his word."
Doing press conferences separately, Dollar and Garcia were on the same page about how the junior transfer could get back into the starting lineup: earn it through hard work in practice. Since they won't have a practice again before their game against Idaho on Thursday, he won't be starting then either.
"He don't get a chance to earn it until we go practice again," said Dollar, who has move Garcia to the bench. "He's gonna be comin' off pokey here until we get a stretch of practices again."
Nevertheless, the NBA scouts will likely keep coming if he keeps showing glimpses of pro potential - the four scouts present at Key Arena last night witnessed Garcia record 17 points on 7-10 shooting and 10 rebounds despite the occasional lapses in judgment in the Redhawks' 81-56 win over the University of California-Davis.
"I ain't gonna lie - I'm gonna be honest with you: I had butterflies," said Garcia of the four scouts in the crowd. "They came to practice yesterday and I had butterflies. I'm like, alright, I'm gonna perform. I was pretty nervous, don't get me wrong, but I was like I aint gonna force nothin', take my time."
At 6'10" and with the ability to rebound, handle the ball in transition and score in a variety of ways, Garcia is clearly a next level talent. However the issue is that Garcia is still adjusting to the speed of the game and performing consistently as teams adjust to him.
"As much as we - including me - at times want to make it an individual sport, it's a team sport," said Dollar. "When teams adjust and take certain things away you have to be productive in other ways. And he's done that - by the mere fact of his presence he forces teams to prepare different, to play other guys different, to open up stuff for other guys. He's made our other guys more confident and better. So a lot of times kids like himself can affect the game in ways that you can't put a number on it and he's been able to do that for us."
UC Davis definitely felt his presence during a two-minute stretch in the second half.
Garcia got things started with 6:41 left in the second half and the game well in hand.
Cervante Burrell came racing down the court off of a UC Davis steal and made a somewhat poor lob to a streaking Garcia who reached for the ball, cocked it, and slammed it in, igniting the crowd.
30 seconds later, Garcia found himself on the opposite end of the fast break, trying to catch UC Davis guard Joe Harden on a fast break.
"Honestly, I thought he was going to dunk it," said Garcia of the fast break chase-down block. "I was like, ‘let me go for this, let me see what I can do.' So you know I'm 6'10", I'm long, I just went up there and blocked it. So, good block, it gets the crowd excited...Actually, first half of the season I wasn't blocking like that. So now I'm coming around, so it could be pretty dangerous if I just blocked some more shots."
With his already stable confidence growing, Garcia got the ball on the right wing with 5:38 left and hit a three. If it wasn't already clear that he thought he was feeling it, he made it clear on the very next possession. It was clear he was determined to make another play, getting the ball in the same spot on the wing, faking his defender into the air, and jump into him to draw a foul on what ended up being a long two-point attempt.
Stretches like those are what have some NBA observers comparing him to Lamar Odom, Anthony Randolph, or Tom Chambers -- long, athletic forwards, who seem to defy positional norms. The problem is exactly that -- these glimpses of talent come in spurts, which is undoubtedly part of why he's now coming off the bench.
Perhaps there's not much new that can be said about Garcia this point other than what Dollar alluded to: it's a team sport, not an individual sport and SeattleU's new star is still adjusting to playing within the team concept as faster, stronger defenses adjust to him and show him different looks. Whereas he was nothing short of spectacular early on and then hit a low point against Oakland University, now we are seeing exactly what Garcia has to offer and what he has to work on. With that said, it's probably best to assume that Garcia is staying in school this year, barring unforeseen circumstances.
"He got after it defensively, he got ten defenseive rebounds, played with energy, so I think he is," said Dollar in response to how Garcia is performing off the bench. "Chuck's fine - he'll keep working. It's good for the soul to have to earn something."
Ultimately, Dollar is considerably less concerned with Garcia's NBA stock than the team's success overall.
"There’s only one number I care about," said Dollar, pointing to their record on the final box. "That 13."
As Garcia continues to adjust to Division I competition, perhaps the number in that win column will increase.