Iowa’s 74-68 win over Penn State saw Hawkeye center Luka Garza become Iowa’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Roy Marble’s record of 2,116 career points which had stood since 1989.
Garza’s ascension to the top of Iowa’s career scoring list was hardly a surprise given his offensive dominance over the past two seasons. The Hawkeye big man is in his second season as the Big Ten’s leading scorer and it most efficient player, and has emerged as a multi-level scoring threat capable of taking over games on the low block and punishing defenses in both the midrange and from beyond the arc. In surpassing Marble, one of Iowa’s most beloved and accomplished former players, Garza has cemented his place on the pantheon of the program’s all-time greats.
As high as Luka Garza has climbed, his rise is far from complete. Barring an injury, an absolute collapse in his play, or a miscarriage of justice the likes of which has not been seen in collegiate athletics in several years, Garza’s legacy may well grow to be even more unassailable in the coming weeks. By season’s end, Luka Garza will likely establish himself a the single most dominant men’s basketball player to ever suit up for the black and gold with both the statistics and the hardware to clearly mark his place as the greatest player in program history.
Luka’s statistical dominance speaks for itself. In addition to topping Iowa’s all-time scoring leaderboard, Garza appears destined to finish among the top five in both rebounds and blocks among all Hawkeyes, which would make him the only player to earn this distinction in all three categories. After posting the best offensive plus/minus numbers in college basketball last season, Garza has elevated his game even further as a senior and currently leads the sport in points scored, points per game, offensive win shares, and player efficiency rating. In fact, Garza’s career player efficiency rating, a metric that measures the per-minute value of a player’s positive and negative contributions on the court, is the second highest in the history of the Big Ten conference. Garza is one of only three players from a major conference to score 30+ points on 90+% shooting in the past 25 years, is the only Big Ten player in the past 25 years to score 20+ points in ten or more road games, and joins Shaquille O’Neal as the only player to score 100+ points over a three-game span while shooting 75% from the field. By the time has career ends, he will almost certainly be among the top ten career scorers in the history of the Big Ten. No Hawkeye has put up career numbers anywhere close to Garza’s and it’s tough to imagine anyone doing so in the foreseeable future.
Garza’s growing list of accolades is also destined to set him apart from other Hawkeye greats. Garza is already one of only five Iowa basketball players to be named a consensus All-American (joining Dick Ives, Herb Wilkinson, Murray Wier, and Chuck Darling) and one of only four Hawkeyes to earn either the Big Ten MVP or Player of the Year Award (along with Wier, Darling, and Sam Williams). Garza is also the only player in program history to earn a National Player of the Year Award, an honor bestowed on him by six major publications in 2020. Garza may have been robbed of the Naismith and Wooden player of the year awards last season, but he is the odds-on favorite to claim both trophies this season, and has already been called a “absolute lock” to earn the distinction by ESPN broadcasting legend Dick Vitale during Luka’s exceptional performance in last week’s road win against Wisconsin. If Garza can indeed become a two-time consensus All-American & Big Ten Player of the Year, as well as a near consensus pick for national Player of the Year awards, his place as the most decorated Hawkeye basketball player in history will be undeniable.
Yet in the eyes of many fans, greatness is measured more by post-season greatness than by statistics and accolades alone. Many of Iowa’s greatest players including Roy Marble, Ronnie Lester, and Bill Logan led the Hawkeyes to conference titles or deep tournament runs in March, accomplishments Garza has yet to achieve. Luka was unfairly robbed of opportunities to contend for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament crowns last season last year after the coronavirus necessitated a premature ending to the season, but still has an opportunity to captain the Hawkeyes to greatness this March. Iowa, which has won four straight games and is projected as a #2 seed in ESPN’s latest mock bracket, is still among the most dangerous teams in college basketball, especially with sophomore shooting guard CJ Fredrick back in the lineup and junior swingman Joe Wieskamp firmly established as a reliable 2nd option. With regular season games against conference heavyweights Michigan and Ohio State remaining on the schedule, Garza still has ample opportunities to add to his growing legacy of dominant performances while helping Iowa secure advantageous seeding in the tournaments to come. If Garza can flex his dominance throughout the month of March and lead the Hawkeyes on the type of run its fans believe the team to be capable of, his legacy as Iowa’s greatest player will truly be secured.
Hawkeye fans have been fortunate to watch Luka Garza play his heart out for the University of Iowa for the past four years and have been particularly blessed over the past two seasons to cheer for the most dominant center to play college basketball since Tim Duncan. Garza’s supremacy is reflected not only in his newly earned spot atop Iowa’s career scoring list, but also in the myriad of awards and accomplishments already achieved by the Hawkeye big men as well as those which appear destined to follow. Iowa fans only have a handful of games remaining to watch one of the Big Ten’s all-time greats and the man who may very well go down as the greatest player in program history. Hawkeye fans must enjoy Garza while they can—we have never seen his likes before, and we may never again.