116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CHICAGO — Luka Garza will try to answer a lot of questions in the next month, but it will always come back to the same one.
Is he athletic enough to play in the NBA?
Garza couldn’t really answer that Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena. He has a groin issue, and didn’t play in his scheduled scrimmage. Nor is he likely to in Friday’s second and final round of scrimmages.
Iowa teammate Joe Wieskamp did play Thursday. He scored eight points, and was 2-of-6 from 3-point distance. If that seems pedestrian, know that his teammates were a combined 1-of-23, and the opposing team was 4-of-27.
The stakes are high here, and shooting nerves showed. Not for Wieskamp, who sank his first jumper less than a minute into his game.
The 6-foot-6 forward’s highlight, though, was blocking a layup by 7-foot Neemias Queta of Utah State.
Wieskamp will play again Friday at 2:15 p.m., and will be available to reporters afterward. Garza’s day to talk was Thursday, and he was his typical optimistic self.
Whether Garza’s ailment affected his times in athletic testing here was uncertain. Of the 50-plus Combine invitees who did submit to the athletic tests like a shuttle run, a three-quarter court sprint, and a standing vertical leap, Garza was either the worst or near the worst.
In shooting drills, he excelled. For instance, he tied for third-best in a 3-point star drill, when players shoot a 3 then quickly move to another of five spots outside the 3-point arc. He hit 17 of 25.
“In my opinion,” Garza told reporters Thursday, “I’m the best big-man shooter in the draft.”
The questions about him never were shooting-related, especially as he became an even more-potent long-range shooter in his final season at Iowa. No, they involve his lateral quickness, general speed, and ability to quickly change directions.
Those won’t be answered here to the satisfaction of the NBA executives and coaches in attendance. That will come in the weeks ahead as Garza travels across America to work out for teams in their facilities before the July 29 draft.
Like many of the players here, Garza hasn’t had any individual workouts yet (Wieskamp got one in with the San Antonio Spurs this month). He did a Zoom interview with the Brooklyn Nets, and already got to know a lot of NBA people that way last summer before withdrawing from the draft and returning to Iowa for a fourth season.
He more or less shrugged off the groin issue Thursday, saying “after I take a couple days I think I’ll be fine.
“The biggest thing I needed to show was losing weight and moving better.”
He said he has avoided breads and sugars, had more plant-based foods and favored chicken and fish over red meat.
“I’ve been tough on myself,” Garza said. “I got myself in shape for this, but it’s worth it.”
Garza was listed at 265 pounds during his National Player of the Year senior season at Iowa that ended three months ago. He’s now at 243, crediting a dietitian and chef he employed back home in the Washington, D.C. area.
“I definitely know the criticisms about my game,” Garza said. “I’m trying to show I move better than they think.
“I know the criticisms about me,” Garza said. “To me, I welcome it. It’s a to-do list.”
Comments: (319) 398-8440; firstname.lastname@example.org