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Branson Garcia signs with UC Merced
Pitman senior Branson Garcia signs his letter of intent to play basketball for UC Merced. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Branson Garcia has spent a lot of time on basketball courts, practically growing up with a ball in his hands since the age of five. The game is a major passion for the Pitman High senior, so much so that it’s hard for his family and friends to dissociate Garcia from basketball.

As the end of his senior year approached, however, Garcia was more than comfortable accepting the fact that his playing days were over. He had contacted a few schools and didn’t receive any offers, so the boy who grew up with basketball-fueled dreams was resigned to knock athlete off his moniker and enter college as just a student.

“I was willing to accept that I was going to school to go to school and to find a way to get a job and to further study,” Garcia said.

But on Thursday, with less than a month to go until graduation, Garcia’s dreams of playing basketball at the college level were restored when he signed his letter of intent to play for UC Merced. It was a 12th-hour signing, but it was a signing all the same.

“I got to visit Merced and get a workout in and they made me feel really comfortable there. I got to see the campus and the gym and I just knew basketball is not done now,” Garcia said.

With four years of varsity experience at Pitman — only the second Pride basketball player to be a four-year starter — and 1,182 career points, 287 career rebounds and 107 career assists it took little convincing for UC Merced to enlist Garcia’s services. And with three All-League selections in the Central California Conference to go along with All-Academic honors and a Senior Scholar Athlete award, it’s easy to see why his future home sent three representatives to Thursday’s signing, including Assistant Athletic Director David Noble.

With his accomplishments and future potential in mind, Garcia has been recruited by the Bobcats to play shooting guard and help turn around a program that finished 1-28 overall last season and went winless in their conference.

“They got a couple of 6-foot-7 guys they signed from the Bay Area to play power forward and the four position, so I’ll likely be a guard and be able to play right off the bat,” Garcia said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Garcia will also be majoring in Biology at UC Merced where his focus on academics will be equally as important as athletics.

“I’m just looking forward to getting in the classroom and getting the job done, having some fun and seeing who I’m going to become as a man once the four years of college is done,” Garcia said. “I’m looking forward to starting to work towards my future.”