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A while ago I was leaving a local grocery store with a bag in each arm. As I approached the exit, I recognized one of my all-time heroes. He was chatting in a semicircle of a half-dozen fans. Then I realized I had left my phone in the car. I'd like to say I ran to the car, but my knees only allowed for a fast shuffle. After heaving the bags onto the driver's seat, I grabbed the phone, did a 180 and yelled back over my shoulder to my wife, who was awaiting me, "I'll be right back — Tony O is in the store." I got back before he left, and a fellow fan kindly took a photo of Tony O and me. My wife and hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans need hear nothing more than "Tony O" to know of whom I spoke.

Last week, Dawson Garcia announced his decision to stay for his senior year as an All-Big Ten forward on the University of Minnesota basketball team. An ecstatic Coach Ben Johnson candidly acknowledged what Garcia may have left on the table by not transferring for name-image-likeness money (NIL) or announcing for the NBA draft. However, I think that more than most homegrown athletes, our Golden Gopher star might understand the silver lining that is available for those who stay or return.

Minnesotans are "homers." We express our affection not only for those who grew up here and stayed, but we also adopt those who, arriving from elsewhere, embrace us. For example, World Series hero Dan Gladden played here and then left only to return as a Twins announcer. It's safe to say that more than a few Twins fans would run for their phones to get a selfie with Danny G. Similar examples include Lou Nanne, who grew up elsewhere, and homegrown Adam Thielen, who currently plays for Carolina but remains one of us in the hearts and minds of fans. However, achieving this status does not require permanent residence. Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat fit this profile.

The benefits for those athletes who choose to embrace Minnesota can last a lifetime. Money and endorsements are obvious, but less obvious are the affections and status conveyed by fans across the state.

On the flip side there are dozens of college recruits, professionals and at least one Minneapolis Miracle worker who left, not realizing the lifelong rewards that were available to them had they stayed.

Garcia was a four-star high school basketball player from Prior Lake who left for another university but returned to play in the Barn. Prospective recruits would be wise to seek his perspective.

Dan Gunderson lives in Minneapolis.