Garza named DI’s Male Athlete of the Year

The junior was the first player in the history of the men’s basketball program to earn national player of the year recognition from a news outlet.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa center Luka Garza shields the ball during a men's basketball game between Iowa and Purdue at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Boilermakers, 77-68.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

After averaging 13.1 points in his sophomore season, Iowa’s Luka Garza emerged as one of the best players across all of college basketball his junior year. For that, Garza is The Daily Iowan’s 2019-20 Male Athlete of the Year.

Garza averaged 23.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game across the 2019-20 campaign, while shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range.

He finished the 20-game conference schedule, averaging 26.2 points per game for the Hawkeyes and becoming the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994.

For his stellar year in the post for Iowa, Garza was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All American. He is the third Hawkeye in program history to earn a first-team All-American distinction and the first since Charles Darling in 1952.

Five major news outlets have named Garza as its national player of the year. Garza is the first player in the history of the men’s basketball program to earn that distinction from a news outlet.

College basketball experts such as Dick Vitale, Seth Daivs, and Andy Katza have also named Garza as their national player of the year.

Garza’s dominance started early on in the 2019-20 season. Against Michigan Dec. 6, Garza exploded for 44 points in Iowa’s road loss in Ann Arbor. That was the third-highest single-game point total in program history and the most by any player other than John Johnson.

Garza would continue to score at ease the rest of the season. He went for 20 or more points in 16 consecutive games against Big Ten teams, a program record and the most by any player in the conference since 1987.

Against some of the best competition in the country, Garza continued to shine. The junior hit or exceeded the 20 point mark in 11 straight games against AP top-25 opponents, the longest streak by any player since Kemba Walker in 2011.

After already dominating Michigan in Iowa’s first matchup with the Big Ten foe of the season, Garza went off against the Wolverines again Jan. 17. Garza scored 33 points in the win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Other notable scoring outputs for Garza over the past season are when he went for 38 points against Indiana in Bloomington Feb. 13 and when he finished with 34 points against Penn State at The Palestra Jan. 4.

All these performances were leading up to Garza breaking the program’s single-season scoring record in Iowa’s final home game of the regular season March 3. After sinking a pair of free throws in the first half of the game against Purdue, Garza hit the 700 point mark on the season and surpassed John Johnson’s 50-year old mark.

With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling both the Big Ten and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Garza was never given the chance to finish his record-breaking junior season.

Should Garza decide to return to Iowa for his senior season, he will have the opportunity to add to the legacy he has already made while wearing the Black and Gold.

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