Iowa's Garza Will Return For Senior Season
It was the idea of the unknown that made Luka Garza decide to return to Iowa for his senior season.
Garza, the Big Ten's player of the year last season, announced on Sunday he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft process and come back to the Hawkeyes for the 2020-21 season.
Garza entered the process hoping to get feedback and a chance to work out for NBA teams. But the COVID-19 pandemic limited him to video conferences.
He was invited to the NBA Draft combine, but no date has been set for that.
Taking those factors into consideration, Garza decided to return.
"It's been really strange, and very difficult, especially with COVID-19, and that added a lot of uncertainty to what I had to decide," Garza said during a video conference with reporters. "But at the end of the day, I felt very confident that I wanted to come back and finish my career at the University of Iowa.
"Luka is a big-picture guy," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "He looked at everything, and I encouraged him to look at everything.
"The important thing, I think, was that he felt good about going through the process the way he did, that he felt like he had done his homework. That was important to me as well."
Monday was the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the draft. The NBA's deadline is August 17, but Garza said his decision will stand.
Now Garza returns to a team that will be a serious contender for the Big Ten title. All five starters are back from a 20-win team that likely would have made the NCAA tournament last season.
"It would be one of the best teams I've ever played for," said Garza, who was selected the national player of the year by six outlets last season. "I wanted to come back and make sure I was part of something special."
"I've never had a team this deep," McCaffery said.
Still, Garza knows that there is uncertainty of whether there is going to be a college basketball season, and what it might look like.
"We all feel strongly that there will be some sort of college basketball season," Garza said. "Whether that be normal, or delayed, or whatever the case may be, we all feel confident in that.
"I didn't want to make a decision based on the unknown. If I would have left based on there not being a (college basketball) season, I would have had to watch the team play without me. I would have been upset, and regretted that decision a lot. Whatever happens, I made the right decision and I won't regret it."
Garza told his teammates in a video conference Sunday morning.
"He's such a great leader for us," guard Joe Wieskamp said. "It's good to have his leadership back."
"It just brings a whole different dimension to our team," guard CJ Fredrick said. "He was the most dominating player in college basketball last season."
Garza was all about the big numbers last season.
He finished with 740 points and 305 rebounds last season, becoming one of three Big Ten players to ever to total 740 or more points and 300 or more rebounds in a single-season, joining Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 and Purdue’s Joe Barry Carroll in 1979. He ranked second nationally with 12 20-point/10-rebound games and 25 20-point games.
Garza was third in total field goals made (287) and points per 40 minutes played (29.8), fifth in scoring (23.9), 10th in 30-point games (5), 19th in double-doubles (15) and offensive rebounds per game (3.58), and 34th in rebounding (9.8).
Garza's 15 double-doubles are third most in a single-season by a Hawkeye in three decades and the most since Reggie Evans had 18 in 2002. Garza averaged 26.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 12 games against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll, including 11 consecutive 20-point performances.
Garza finished the 20-game conference schedule averaging 26.2 points per game, becoming the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Robinson's 31.1 points per game in 1994. Garza broke the program's 50-year old scoring record previously set by John Johnson in 1970. He scored 20 points or more in a school-record 16 straight Big Ten games, the longest streak by any player in the Big Ten since Ohio State's Dennis Hopson 16 in 1987.
Garza said he made his decision on Wednesday night while talking to his father, Frank.
"We came to a decision together," Garza said. "We were really locked in. We said we were going to sleep on it, and I woke up the next morning feeling just as good and as excited as I did the night before."
Garza said the offers and discussions he had were "not enough for me to leave."
"I felt strongly that if I would have kept my name in, I would have been drafted," Garza said. "I had a lot of opportunities in the NBA, as well as in Europe for a lot of money. But, at the end of the day, the teams that liked me this year will like me next year. And they'll like me even more because I'll put in a lot of work this summer, I'll continue to put in the work, and I'm always improving my game."
Garza said not getting to finish last season also played a role in his decision to return. Now he's coming back.
"It was the best decision of my life to come to the University of Iowa," Garza said. "And I think it's the best decision for me to stay."