John Dawson is by himself in his bedroom, praying.
For the first time in his life, the bedroom is his alone. That’s what happens living with eight brothers and sisters, and even more foster children who have come off the streets and made stops in your family’s home throughout the years.
The 6-foot-3 guard learned to use prayer during difficult times and important decision-making from his father, the Rev. D.D. Dawson, founder of the Pure Heart Word Center in Clovis, N.M., roughly four hours from Albuquerque.
But on this day, John isn’t speaking with his father. He isn’t receiving advice from his siblings on which of the 37 Division I basketball scholarship offers he holds to accept. No high school or AAU coach is in his ear, whispering suggestions on where the rising point guard should play his college ball.
Instead, John continues to pray until a “higher power” confirms that Milwaukee, a city located more than 1,200 miles away from home, a place he has never visited, is where he is meant to be.
“He asked the Lord, ‘I want to do your will. What is it you have for me?’ And he got through praying, and the Lord told him Marquette,” D.D. recalled.
And with that, Buzz Williams received an oral commitment last Friday from Dawson, the fourth recruit of a talented 2013 class that features two top-100 players in PG Duane Wilson and SF Deonte Burton, and a junior college All-American in PF Jameel McKay.
Williams and assistant coach Brad Autry, Dawson’s lead recruiter, made Dawson a priority. The pair visited Clovis, population 38,000, on multiple occasions to speak with his family and him, and watch him work out at open gym sessions.
Autry discovered Dawson, Marquette’s commit from New Mexico, through the recruiting pipeline, contacting him and letting him know of their initial interest.
“He told me that I have so much more room to grow that it’s unbelievable, and that he would be the person to bring it out in me,” John said.
“[Buzz] said he liked what he saw when we first spoke. We talked and got to know each other and he was saying I was what he needed in a point guard, and I could fill the spot he needed,” he added.
Dawson arrived on the scene this past winter when he averaged 18 points and nine assists per game for Clovis H.S., helping the Wildcats to a District 4-5A tournament championship before losing in the state semifinals. He also was named first-team all-state in New Mexico as a junior.
That, along with AAU coach Mike Clay showcasing him during the summer, helped Dawson receive interest from high-major programs.
“I describe myself as like a Chris Paul,” John said. “I make everybody else better; I’m a distributor and can score when I need to score.”
Being a leader and helping others on the hardwood has come easy to Dawson, largely because he does so much of the same off it.
As a regular church-goer from a “God-praising household,” he is an active member in the Clovis community, donating his time to multiple charities when he isn’t working in the gym improving his game.
Helping Hands, a charity that stems from D.D.’s work at Pure Heart Word Center, donates food, clothes and more to those in need every Saturday morning. Whenever John is available, he’s there.
“It’s about giving back and giving to people who are in need of it,” John said. “I go help pick up trash at parks, and on Christmas day we went to the hospital and gave kids presents where they were less fortunate.”
Dawson also has attended homeless shelters with his family on Thanksgiving Day, serving food to those less fortunate. As one of Marquette University’s four pillars being “service,” he should have no problem fitting in on campus.
“It teaches him to see that there are people that are maybe, not under us, but sometimes people don’t have the same fortune we do,” D.D. said.
And Williams’ faith left a mark on Dawson. Last year, specifically, following Marquette’s NCAA Tournament win over Murray State, freshman Todd Mayo told reporters that Williams prays with the team all the time.
“He told us about how he lived and what he believed in,” John said of an in-home visit with Williams. “That was a big plus for me, and having somebody that believes with me and didn’t degrade me for it.”
Williams also told Dawson and his family that there was no pressure on him to commit to Marquette, but that he would be persistent, and planned to visit every week until John eventually made his decision.
“One time they came and stayed for hours,” D.D. said. “Buzz was going over different things, and he didn’t pull punches.”
Williams, Autry and Isaac Chew’s visits left an impression on John that helped in the decision-making process, before choosing Marquette over UTEP,Creighton, Auburn and Texas Tech.
“It was like a swagger, meeting with them and the way they play,” John said. “The intensity. It’s an intense environment with the coaching.”
Dawson has his eyes set on improving his basketball I.Q., a sentiment shared by fellow 2013 point guard commit Duane Wilson, and being quicker on his feet.
And like he has done in the community through his faith and goodwill, he wants to help his Clovis team cut down the nets in March.
“Of course I want to win a state championship, John said. “And I also want to help my teammates out.”
Like he has done his entire life, John looked to prayer when making his decision to eventually attend Marquette. It’s a part of his life, led by his father, that is sure to carry him well into his years as a Golden Eagle.
“He has always known to go to prayer,” D.D. said. “God gives you an answer. And the fact that he made the grown-man decision that he actually did, when he said it was Marquette, it was the right call.”