Deter

Garza returning for senior season at Iowa

Sports

August 2nd, 2020 by Chris Parks

Men’s Basketball’s Luka Garza Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Luka Garza, the 2020 National College Basketball Player of the Year by six national news outlets and Big Ten Player of the Year, announced on Sunday that he is returning to the University of Iowa for his senior season.

“My heart is in Iowa City,” said Garza. “I love this place too much to leave it. I love my teammates, coaches, community, fans, and university. It would have been way too hard to close the book without the last chapter.”

Garza is one of five players since 1975, and first since 2008, to return to school after being recognized as the Sporting News National Player of the Year. The other four players are Tyler Hansbrough (2008), Dee Brown (2005), Michael Jordan (1983), and Ralph Sampson (1982).

The Washington, D.C., native had a historic season in 2019-2020, leading the nationally-ranked UI men’s basketball team to 20 victories and a likely NCAA Tournament berth if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. A unanimous consensus first-team All-America selection, Garza became the first UI men’s basketball student-athlete to earn National Player of the Year distinction (Sporting NewsBasketball Times, ESPN, FOX, Stadium, Bleacher Report). The center was also named the Pete Newell Big Man of the Year, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year, USBWA District VI Player of the Year, and Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.

“Luka’s decision is incredibly unselfish and heart-warming,” said head coach Fran McCaffery. “Luka has an opportunity to advance himself professionally, but instead, he is thinking more about the program and his teammates. His goals are team-oriented. He has an incredible bond with his brothers in the locker room and believes in this group.”

Garza finished the 20-game conference schedule averaging a staggering 26.2 points per game, becoming the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 and first true center since Minnesota’s Tom Kondla (28.3 ppg) in 1967. Garza scored a school-record 740 points in 2019-2020, breaking the program’s 50-year old record previously set by John Johnson in 1970. Garza became one of three Big Ten players to ever to total 740+ points and 300+ rebounds in a single season. He scored 20 points or more in a school-record 16 straight Big Ten games, the longest streak by any player in the Big Ten since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson (16) in 1987.

Last season, Garza ranked second nationally in 20-point games (25); third in total field goals made (287), fifth in scoring (23.9), 19th in double-doubles (15), and 34th in rebounding (9.8). He produced against top competition all season, averaging 26.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 12 contests against AP ranked opponents, including recording 11 straight 20-point performances.

Garza enters his senior season with 1,559 points, 660 rebounds, 104 blocked shots, 99, assists, 47 steals, and 20 double-doubles. He ranks 10th in Iowa career blocked shots and double-doubles, and 12th in scoring. He is 558 points from surpassing Roy Marble as the school’s all-time leading scorer. He has reached double figures in scoring 70 times, including 20 points or more 37 times.

“He is willing to bet on himself, which shows tremendous confidence,” McCaffery said. “I am excited to be part of it and thrilled to have an opportunity to coach him again. There is no better feeling than having student-athletes here for the right reasons, who want to be great and do it in our program.”

With the announcement of Garza’s return, Iowa returns seven players with significant starting experience. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 20-win season, and a fifth-place conference finish.

Iowa is an unofficial preseason Top-10 team for the 2020-21 season. In addition to All-American Luka Garza, the Hawkeyes return upperclassmen all-conference honorees Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp. Redshirt junior Connor McCaffery led all Division I players in assist-to-turnover ratio, while CJ Fredrick was honored on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team a year ago.

“With the overall depth, length, and experience that we have returning I believe we have a group determined to make the most of this season,” Garza said. “We have goals of where we want to be, but right now it’s not about winning championships; it’s about taking it one day at a time so we can be the best team possible.”