Luka Garza named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year

The announcement was made by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


Iowa center Luka Garza chews on his mouthguard during a men’s basketball game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Huskers at Carver-Hawkeye arena on Saturday, February 8, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers 96-72.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

Iowa junior Luka Garza has been named the recipient of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. The announcement was made Tuesday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Named after the three-time NCAA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the annual honor in its sixth year recognizes the top center in Division I men’s college basketball. He is the first Hawkeye to win the award and the third Big Ten player to earn the honor.

“I have looked up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar my entire life,” Garza said in a release. “To win an award in his name is a tremendous honor and one that I share with my family. I am incredibly grateful to have the coaching staff, group of teammates, and my family, which put me in position to win this award. Lastly, I’d like to thank the loyal support of Hawkeye Nation!”

Last week, Garza was named the NABC Pete Newell Big Man of the Year. After this honor, Garza has been solidified as the best center in the country over the past season.

“Luka Garza is a very intelligent player and it shows in his efficiency with the ball,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a release. “To have 25 games with 20 points or more is no easy task and it proves the level of effort and focus he sustained throughout the season. Congratulations to Luka on this award and a remarkable junior year.”

Last month, six major news outlets named Garza as its national player of the year. He is the first Iowa men’s basketball player to earn that distinction. Garza was also named a consensus first-team All-American, joining Murray Wier (1948) and Chalres Darling (1952) as the only Hawkeyes in men’s program history to earn that honor.

“I am extremely proud of Luka and our program,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said in a release. “Knowing the amount of respect that Luka has for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this award is incredibly special for Luka. No player in the country was as productive and consistent — against the quality of teams and players in the Big Ten — than Luka Garza in 2020. It’s rewarding to watch a young man work and grow the way Luka has and to see the commitment he has to his teammates, to the program, and to his family.”