Iowa’s Garza will return
IOWA CITY — Luka Garza is holding on to the hope that his Iowa basketball team can compete for a national championship this winter. He announced Sunday that he is forgoing a professional career in order to remain a Hawkeye.
Garza, an All-America center, will open as a frontrunner for national player of the year and make Iowa a top-10 team entering the season.
But that season is in doubt of being completed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a point that was hammered home last week for Garza when two of his teammates tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Garza had to make his announcement while being quarantined for that reason. In doing so, Garza passes up a lucrative offer to play in Europe and the chance to be selected in the next NBA Draft.
“COVID went up to him and slapped him twice in the face: ‘Pay attention to me,’ ” Garza’s father, Frank, told the Register last week.
“There’s a message there. How can this not impact you when it’s right on your doorstep?”
On March 12, the college basketball season came to an abrupt halt when postseason play was canceled as COVID-19 was beginning its spread in the United States. The Hawkeyes heard the news just before they were about to leave their hotel in Indianapolis for their opening game in the Big Ten tournament.
That put an end to one of the most remarkable seasons in Iowa basketball history. Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes to a 20-11 record, becoming the program’s first consensus All-American since 1952 in the process. The junior was named Big Ten player of the year.
Frank Garza said there was one primary motivation for his son to play his senior season at Iowa.
“He wants to win it all, to accomplish something that has never been done [at Iowa], to forever be part of folklore,” he said.