How an NBA Draft Withdrawal Led to a Historic Season for Iowa Hawkeyes’ Luka Garza

Published 03/10/2021, 4:00 PM EST
Feb 2, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) reacts as Michigan State Spartans forward Julius Marble II (34) looks on during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


Many college players try to enter the NBA as soon as they can to keep their stock high. But some players are eager to bring glory to their college before they leave, and Iowa Hawkeyes’ senior Luka Garza is among them.

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After a stellar 2010-20 season, Garza declared for the NBA Draft. He narrowly missed out on the Player of the Year award but had already established himself as one of the best players in college. He had almost achieved everything he could have on an individual level. But Garza withdrew from the draft to help the Hawkeyes win the NCAA tournament.

In their 121-year history, the Hawkeyes haven’t won an NCAA tournament, and Garza wanted to end this barren run. So in August, he announced his return for a senior year.

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Luka Garza: Iowa Hawkeyes legend

Over his career, Garza has broken many records. Many have come in this season as well, and the most notable one is him becoming the all-time leading scorer for the Hawkeyes. Roy Marble held the previous record, which was set back in 1989. Garza achieved the record 15 games faster than Marble to achieve the status of being the Hawkeyes’ GOAT.

He scored 41 points against the Southern Jaguars in their second game of the season. That is the most points scored by a Hawkeye at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena since it opened in 1983. He scored 102 points in his first three games this season, which is the most in Division 1 since Stephen Curry scored 106 for the Davidson Wildcats in the  2008-09 season.

Jan 10, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Marcus Carr (5) draws a charging foul against Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Garza received his second Sporting News National Player of the Year award this season. He joined the elite company of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among other players who have received this award twice as well.

There are a few more records, and this sums up his season so far. He has been excellent individually, but now his focus will lie on the NCAA tournament.

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Can Garza help the Hawkeyes to end their drought?

The closest the Hawkeyes have come to winning the NCAA tournament was the runner-up title in 1956. They haven’t been to the Final Four since 1980 and have struggled since then. But this is arguably their strongest team since then. There are a few other teams who pose a threat, but in Garza, they have a trump card. Their hopes rest with him, and fans will hope he can lead them to the title.

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Jan 10, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) reacts with guard Jordan Bohannon (3) against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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Aaron Mathew

1648 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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