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55 Days Until Hawkeye Basketball: Luka Garza

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Can the junior big man elevate his play after Tyler Cook’s departure?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round- Iowa Hawkeyes vs Cincinnati Bearcats Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As luck would have it, the second annual countdown to Iowa Hawkeye basketball begins on the Cy-Hawk football game. So it’s alright to look ahead to the hardwood while you’re drinking a Busch Light White Claw in preparation of today’s festivities. First up in the countdown: Luka Garza!

Luka Garza
Forward, 6’11”, 245 lbs
Junior, Washington, D.C. (Maret School)

After starting his Hawkeye career strong with 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds a game as a freshman, Garza more or less matched his output with 13.1 and 4.5 in his sophomore campaign. Fans may remember he had an abdominal cyst removed just before the beginning of the season, though it didn’t result in a slow start: he averaged 16.2 and 5 in his first five games last year.

The drop in rebounds for Garza is reflected in a similar dip for team-wide offensive (and defensive) rebounding percentage. After rebounding 34.1% of their own misses in 2017-18, Iowa posted a 29.4% offensive rebounding percentage. Garza saw his go from 12.8% to 9.1% with an even starker drop in defensive rebounding percentage (20.4% to 12.7%). It’s certainly something to watch team-wide as Iowa will be without Tyler Cook.

Luka also took more threes and shot them at a slightly worse clip. Being a little more away from the basket also saw his free throw attempts dip a smidge, though his free throw percentage jumped 12 points to 80.4%.

All things considered, it would be difficult to call Garza’s second year a slump. He was second on the team in scoring and third in rebounds and had a stretch of seven conference games where he scored 16 or more points per game. He was integral in the tournament win over the Cincinnati Bearcats where he had 20 points on 8/11 shooting.

For his junior campaign, Garza is in a good spot where he is a known quantity, though he does have areas to improve. With Cook’s departure, he figures to see more double-teams in the post and will have to manage a potentially increased scoring burden. Though Jack Nunge and Cordell Pemsl are returning from redshirts, Garza will also need to be a consistent 30 minute/night guy.

He has post moves for days and is a legitimate matchup concern for many Hawkeye opponents. Synergy Sports tallied him for 1.178 points per post-up, which rates in the top 3% of those measured. The site also tracked 19 possessions where Garza was doubled, which led to 0 turnovers, 6/9 shooting from him, and 6/10 shooting from fellow Hawkeyes.

He’s also as passionate as they come on the court and is poised for a leadership role with Jordan Bohannon’s redshirt year looming and a graduated Nicholas Baer. If he’s able to shore up his shot selection and show continued improvement on defense, the junior center will go a long way in getting the Hawkeyes back in the tournament.