Oh yeah, what a feeling! Football is in the air which means basketball is right around the corner. We’ll be counting down the days, here and there, until Iowa’s first game tips off. The countdown starts with… Luka Garza!
Forward, 6’11”, 245 lbs
Sophomore, Washington, D.C. (Maret School)
Luka Garza had a stellar individual campaign to begin his Hawkeye career. He averaged 12.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds on 55.7% shooting and showed the ability to stretch the floor. Throughout much of last year, it was clear that he was an emotional touchstone of the Hawkeyes as they struggled throughout much of the season to convert offensive output into wins and it clearly took a toll on Garza.
He didn’t let that deter him and found strength in his family, as his father made his way to multiple games. His most impressive outing was a 19-point performance at Illinois amidst a comeback victory in one of the few high points of last season. He added another 22 points against the Illini in the Big Ten Tournament – Fran’s first win in the conference tourney in ages – and outdueled Ethan Happ in Iowa’s win over the Badgers.
Shortly after the above link was written, news came out of an abdominal cyst Garza had removed. In the release, Fran mentions him returning “later this fall” so we can only wish him the best during his recovery.
The sophomore played in all 33 games last year, starting in 26. The seven he came off the bench were after Iowa lost five games in six and jarred the high preseason expectations many around the program had.
Going into the 2018-19 season, it’s obviously most important for Garza to recover fully from his surgery earlier this month. He’s added the classic “10 pounds of muscle” you see nearly every player gain going into their sophomore year. He has high expectations of himself and hopes to shoot around 40% from deep.
Folks want him to be Adam Woodbury on defense and his advanced stats stack up nicely in that respect. Garza’s block rate of 4.6% is a shade under Woodbury’s freshman year 4.9%, after which it trended down significantly. His rebounding rates are right in line with what Woodbury put up throughout his career. If he can become the positional defender Woodbury was, then he’ll be an even more foundational piece than one would expect from his offense alone.
Garza has the potential to be an offensive and defensive force. If his preparation is any indicator, he’ll continue to elevate his game and help the Hawkeyes elevate theirs.