There’s little doubt the offers would have continued to come in for Muscatine’s Alicia Garcia. But, as it turns out, the first offer turned out to be the best fit.
Northern Iowa offered Garcia in June, and she announced her verbal commitment to play basketball for the Panthers on Twitter Sunday night.
“It feels so unreal,” Garcia said. “Like, I’m just a sophomore. It still blows my mind and it will until the time actually comes to go there.”
She proved herself as a Division I prospect last winter when she averaged a team-high 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a freshman and also led the Mississippi Athletic Conference with 42 blocked shots.
“UNI is going to get a kid that at 6-foot, 6-1 can go inside and out,” Muscatine coach Susan Orvis said. “She’s just got fluidity about her and you can see the smoothness in her movement."
Now that her recruitment is wrapped up, Garcia can turn her focus to building off an impressive freshman season.
“I wanted to get it out of the way early so I can focus on my game and what I need to improve,” Garcia said. “I don’t have to worry about phone calls and all of that.”
Orvis said there are plenty of advantages to committing as early as Garcia, who will join UNI for the 2021-22 season.
“The recruiting process continues to get busier and busier,” Orvis said. “If you do know where you want to go, it’s a good decision to make because you can invest time and resources in your development. Also, that relationship you continue to build with the coach, you can put yourself in a good situation to be ahead of the curve when you step on campus.”
Orvis went on to say the Muskies would likely merge some of what the Panthers do in their system into their own to help Garcia get a head start.
Garcia’s relationship with UNI coach Tanya Warren was a big reason she felt comfortable pulling the trigger and committing to the Panthers. Her first offer came from Warren, and the family atmosphere at UNI made it impossible for Garcia to say no.
“It’s a family there, it just felt right,” Garcia said. “She (Warren) said you’ll never go through anything alone here. She told me for the next four or five years she’s going to be that mother figure to us. She’s going to push us to be our best. She said there will be days we’re going to hate her, but she said it’s all out of love.
“I absolutely love that about her.”
Garcia also had the luxury of leaning on her sister, former Muscatine and Bradley standout Leti Lerma, in the recruiting process. Coincidentally, Bradley was the other school to offer Garcia, who elected to take her sister to Cedar Falls for her second visit to UNI.
“She’s a big role model in my life,” Garcia said. “She’s been through it all and knows what to look for. She loved UNI and said it’d be a great fit if that’s where I chose to go.”
Now, with three years until Garcia steps on campus, she says Lerma has vowed to "push me and push me to be my best." She’ll certainly have plenty of time now that she’s not taking phone calls from any other coaches.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Orvis said. “We’re thrilled for her but as it goes for the next level it’s exciting but it’s also time to get to work again.”