Luka Garza, other Hawkeye legends to be honored during Iowa-MSU matchup

The No. 25 Hawkeyes face off with the Spartans at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, though that may not be the highlight of the night for the Iowa fans in attendance.


Kate Heston

Luka Garza was celebrated for breaking the all-time scoring record at Iowa tonight during an Iowa men’s basketball game against Nebraska on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Carver-Hawkeye arena. The Hawks beat the Cornhuskers, 102-64.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The first half of Tuesday’s Iowa men’s basketball game against Michigan State may seem more like an opening act for the fans waiting to see the main event that will take place at halftime.

Luka Garza, a two-time national player of the year and the men’s program’s all-time leading scorer, will have his No. 55 retired at the conclusion of the first half. A banner in Garza’s honor will be unveiled in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena rafters. Garza, now in his rookie season with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, was Iowa’s first consensus National Player of the Year as a senior and is the program’s only two-time unanimous consensus first-team All-American.

“It’s always particularly rewarding when you watch someone work as hard as he has and develop into the player that he became, which is the best player in the country,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said of Garza at a press conference on Monday. “That’s really hard to do. But the other thing is as great a player as he is, he’s even a better person.”

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta announced after last season’s Senior Day game that no other Hawkeye men’s basketball player would wear No. 55 after Garza.

RELATED: Iowa men’s basketball to retire Luka Garza’s number on Feb. 22

Garza, who as a senior led the nation in total points scored (747), 30-point games (eight), field goals made, and 20-point games (22), will be accompanied by his father, Frank, for Tuesday’s ceremony. The center from Washington, D.C., is making the trip to Iowa City before returning to Detroit. The Pistons used a second-round pick to select Garza in the 2021 NBA Draft. Garza has spent his rookie NBA season playing with the Pistons and their G-League affiliate. The 6-foot-11, 235-pounder has appeared in 29 games (starting five) for Detroit this season and is averaging 5.2 points and three rebounds per game.

“This is an honor my family and I will never forget,” Garza, who attended Iowa’s practice on Monday, said in a release. “I want to thank Mr. Barta, Coach McCaffery and the entire coaching staff, all my teammates, my family, and all of Hawkeye Nation because without them this would not have been possible. It’s a dream come true to have my name and number in the rafters among all of the other Hawkeye greats.”

Before and after Garza’s ceremony, the newly ranked No. 25 Hawkeyes (18-8 overall, 8-7 Big Ten) will face the Spartans (18-8, 9-6), a team they swept last season and has now lost four of its last five. But a halftime number retirement isn’t the only ceremony being held at Carver.

The Iowa athletics department will also be retiring the jerseys of former Hawkeyes Charles “Chuck” Darling, Roy Marble, and Murray Wier ahead of the contest, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. Darling, Marble, and Wier are all deceased, but will have family representation at the ceremony, Barta said.

All of the retired numbers and jerseys for the men’s and women’s basketball programs are now displayed at Carver.

Barta said that after former Iowa women’s basketball player Megan Gustafson and Garza were named National Player of the Year in consecutive seasons, he wanted to reevaluate the athletic department’s jersey and number retirement criteria. A committee of former letterwinners, along with athletics communications staff, compiled a group of standout former players who should be honored. The numbers of the three former players having their jerseys retired on Tuesday will remain in circulation.

“To have the national player of the year back-to-back at Iowa, in men’s and women’s, it’s pretty extraordinary,” Barta said. “That’s when I asked the committee to come together and said, ‘Let’s come up with the criteria, let’s reevaluate them, let’s comb through our history and tradition and make sure we don’t miss anybody who we think should be up there, and then let’s go for it.’ Even if there are some inconsistencies, these are our greats, and they are going to be hanging from our rafters.”