Garcia takes long road to McNeese

Published 12:41 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

Javohn Garcia’s path to McNeese State traveled from one coast to the other.

It also went from a big program to a basketball outpost before the junior guard found his hoop home in the Legacy Center.

“I never heard of McNeese before last year,” Garcia admitted.

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Few basketball folks ever had as well.

Thanks to Garcia and his new buddies, they all know about the Cowboys now.

But the transition from the University of Massachusetts to McNeese by way of the College of the Sequoias in northern California has not always been easy for the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter.

Coming out of high school in Ohio, Garcia was a 3-star recruit who had played at a big-time prep program in the national spotlight. He went to UMass with the highest of expectations and had two pretty good years, averaging 8.2 points over 40 games.

However, grade issues and less playing time in his second year there changed everything. Garcia blamed it on time management.

“I didn’t handle my schedule right and had some ups and downs,” said Garcia. “It made me take a step back and look at what I was doing. I never expected I would have to go to a junior college.

“It was a humbling experience, but it made me appreciate basketball and school more. Junior College taught me to stay the course, to work hard, and keep going. It wasn’t always easy.”

Garcia had a big year in junior college, averaging 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 30 games with 29 starts. He helped his team to a 27-4 record while sinking 52 percent of his shots including 46 percent from three-point range.

He was named the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association (CCCMBCA) North Player of the Year and earned All-State honors.

“I had never been to California before and it was really nice out there,” Garcia said. “I enjoyed it and had fun again playing basketball.”

Those numbers and his past led McNeese head coach Will Wade to go after Garcia when he took over the Cowboy job last spring.

“He is a really good player who can shoot the basketball,” said Wade. “We knew he was able to play multiple positions back in the summer. That was one of the things we liked about him.”

Garcia’s reputation was noticed by Southland coaches, who voted him to the league’s preseason second team before he ever played a game in the conference. And while the transition to McNeese hasn’t always been smooth, he has been able to show off his skills.

“I have a high level of trust with him on the floor,” said Wade. “He is one of our most consistent guys. He may not wow you with an amazing play, but he doesn’t make big mistakes either.”

Garcia is one of four McNeese players averaging in double figures at 10.5, starting 24 games for the 23-3 Cowboys. He missed two games with a leg injury.

For the season he has connected on 30 of 68 (44%) three-pointers, second on the team. Garcia scored 22 in a home win against Southeastern but for the most part, his scoring has been tempered by the time he has spent at point guard, one of three spots he plays.

“His versatility allows us to use Javohn in a lot of spots as needed,” said Wade. “We put him at the point more out of necessity in the early going. That’s how much we trusted him with the ball.”

That was just more of the learning curve for Garcia, who was surprised how much he had the ball in his hands to start with.

“At first I struggled with the point, but once I learned to play all three positions it has been great,” Garcia said

Don’t confuse things, however, shooting is what he loves to do best.

“Once I see the first one go in, it is just a confidence thing,” said Garcia. “That is the fun part of the game.”

Everything is fun for the Cowboys right now, as they close in on the program’s first SLC regular season championship since 2011.

“No one expected us to be this good this fast,” said Garcia.

Winning has made his long road to McNeese worth every step.