It’s April, which means that many college basketball players are exploring new homes. Whether they’ll find themselves in the NBA or at another college
which isn’t Iowa State, remains to be seen for many, including the Iowa Hawkeyes’ Luka Garza.
Through his father, Frank Garza, we are given a unique peek behind the scenes at what Luka is doing in preparation for 2020-21 on Twitter. Fellow Hawks, Jordan Bohannon & Megan Gustafson have added their own content (Bohannon with daily dribbling drills; Gustafson with Mikan drill variants) to ease the boredom of quarantining but the main event is Frank’s work with Luka.
In reading Frank’s Twitter timeline, it reads like a version of Chris Doyle’s, Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach in terms of positivity and preparation. That preparation was quickly apparent in the aftermath of the college basketball season getting cut short:
The videos have changed since quarantining has become commonplace and training partners are restricted to essentially family. In many of the videos released by Frank, those involve long range shooting which has many here at BHGP excited.
But what does it mean?
When focusing on the short term, it means that Luka Garza is working to improve his draft stock. He is likely to receive two pieces of feedback from NBA scouts - lateral quickness on defense & consistent shooting. Since the Association is becoming so perimeter-oriented, centers of seasons past are falling by the wayside. If Luka cannot improve there, he’s probably destined for Europe.
From a #content perspective, there is little by way of excitement that can be drummed up for Luka by releasing snippets of drills focusing on the former (lateral quickness) for Frank to release. He regularly references Iowa and their fans when posting videos, so this work appears to be as much with an eye towards the 2020-21 Iowa Hawkeyes as it is for Garza’s pro prospects in the upcoming draft.
Let’s pause to examine what exactly Iowa needs from Garza next year.
The Hawks have just three true bigs on the planned roster: Garza, Jack Nunge coming off of an ACL injury, and Josh Ogundele. Considering the limitations of Nunge & Ogundele, the perimeter focus of Luka’s offseason will have a direct translation into his game next season, assuming he returns.
While the last five games of Iowa’s season trend very heavy for Garza’s minutes - 94% of the time according to KenPom ($) - it offers some insight into what Iowa will need to replace for next year at the 4/5:
- Ryan Kriener played 48% of available minutes between the 4 & 5
- Cordell Pemsl played 32% at the 4
- Joe Wieskamp had 23% of the time at the 4 (86% of minutes overall)
Though Joe struggled down the stretch after a season “playing up” a position, lets assume he’s still going to play about 10 minutes/game as the 4. That means Iowa will need to find 28+ minutes for the 4/5, depending on how much Garza plays.
The assumption is that Nunge will slide right into the role he played in the first part of last year, where he had his moments but also his struggles. But it feels like a stretch to sign him up for all those minutes, considering 1) the aforementioned ACL tear and 2) he’s played 28 minutes just once in his career.
So let’s sign him up for 18 a game (in line with last year’s average). If Garza is going to average 32 minutes a game, Iowa needs 20 more at the 4/5 next season.
Now we get back to Garza working on his three point shot.
You see him and Frank working on “trailer 3s,” something he rarely did last year as Iowa’s rim-to-rim center. Synergy Sports had him as a trailer on just 10 possessions, going 3/8 from the field and scoring 11 points across all possessions. So what is being worked now would represent a distinct change in his role for Iowa last year.
This means that somebody else is likely going to be Iowa’s rim-runner and Nunge would be the most obvious candidate. Though he’ll be returning from an injury, the role would be a simplification for him while making the load easier for Garza. Further, it will dictate matchups to opponents.
I have to credit former commenter, StoopsMyAss, for this salient point in an email: with Nunge (or Ogundele) sprinting to the rim, where will opponents send their center? To protect the basket or guard Garza 25 feet from the basket? It’s a lose-lose situation for them, when properly executed by Iowa. Plus we know how good Garza was going against the deep bullpen of centers in the Big Ten this year. Presumably he will only be better if he’s going against more power forward-y players in the future, to say nothing of the drop-off in quality between this year and next.
Obviously all of this hinges on Garza returning and everyone staying healthy. The latter issue highlights the need for Fran to lighten the load amid a deeper team-wide rotation.
I’ll close with this video:
#Hawkeyes, #55 on the 2 min drill: game winner. Players, imagine end of game, pick and pop, no chance for rebound, 100% focus on victory.Note, if you don’t practice last second shots,how will you develop the confidence to shoot them? Be prepared for any scenario by rehearsal. pic.twitter.com/cWbot4MPy8— Frank Garza (@frankgarza57) April 18, 2020
It is, more or less, a direct callback to Garza’s game-sealing three against Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye.
I speak just for myself that it is incredibly easy to show up for a couple games every week, watch them perform, and forget how much work goes into all of this. Luka embodies that work ethic so the things he (and everyone else) is working on are things we’ll see when they return.
So anything “new” we see from Luka next season, whether it is in Iowa City or some NBA city, is anything but novel.
“Be prepared for any scenario by rehearsal.”