Iowa’s Luka Garza wins Naismith Trophy

Garza is the first Hawkeye men’s basketball player to ever receive this national player of the year honor.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Luka Garza drives forward during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 79-66.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Iowa men’s basketball player Luka Garza was awarded the 2021 men’s Naismith Trophy, which goes to the National College Player of the Year, on Saturday to become the first Hawkeye men’s player to receive the award since it debuted in 1969.

“Winning an award in Naismith’s name is an honor my family and I will always treasure,” Garza said in a release. “… I am forever thankful to the University of Iowa, coach [Fran] McCaffery, the rest of the coaching staff, my teammates, my family, and the countless other people and coaches who have helped me along the way. This is not an individual honor, but a team award and I am so proud to be able to bring this award home to Iowa City.”

Iowa is one of just six institutions to have both a men’s and women’s Naismith Trophy honoree, joining Duke, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas, and Virginia. Megan Gustafson was the recipient of the 2019 Naismith Trophy following her senior season.

Garza will be presented the iconic Naismith Trophy, originally sculpted in 1982 by Atlanta’s Marty C. Dawe, on the UI campus this spring.

“Luka just concluded a remarkable college career and had tremendous expectations to live up to all season long. He displayed complete dominance on the court throughout the course of an incredibly challenging basketball season,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Garza (6-foot-11, 265 pounds) led an Iowa team that finished this season 22-9. The second-seeded Hawkeyes fell to Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. As a senior, Garza scored 747 points (first nationally), breaking his own program record for points in a season. Garza posted eight 30-point games and 22 20-point games.

On the season, the All-American averaged 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Garza shot 55.3 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.

The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year averaged 21.9 points per game during the 20-game conference schedule, becoming the third player since 1990 to lead the Big Ten in scoring in consecutive seasons (Michigan State’s Steve Smith and Evan Turner of Ohio State).

Garza broke the Iowa’s 32-year old scoring record held by Roy Marble on Feb. 21. Garza ended his Iowa career with 2,306 career points. Garza’s No. 55 is set to be retired now that his Hawkeye career is over.

Garza has been named national player of the year by all of the major organizations and publications, including the Associated Press, National Association of Basketball Coaches, United States Basketball Writers Association (Oscar Robertson Trophy), Sporting NewsBasketball Times, and The Athletic.

Iowa’s first two-time unanimous consensus first-team All-American is also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, which will be announced on Tuesday. If Garza is awarded the Wooden Award, he will become the consensus national player of the year.

Garza was chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of media members from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom based their selections on outstanding on-court performances during the 2020-21 college basketball season. Additionally, fans had the opportunity to cast a ballot. The Naismith fan vote accounted for five percent of the overall vote.

Garza was also named the recipient of the 2021 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award Saturday afternoon. Named after Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the annual honor in its seventh year recognizes the top center in Division I men’s college basketball. Garza is the first player to win the award multiple times.

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