116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There’s going to be less of Luka Garza to show the NBA this month at its pre-draft Combine.
The 6-foot-11 consensus National Player of the Year was listed at 265 pounds during his senior season at Iowa, which ended less than three months ago. Now?
“I’ve lost like 17 pounds already.” Garza said Tuesday, “actually probably more like 19 pounds at this point. Going to go down a little bit more, just improve my quickness and athleticism, and continue to work on my strength.”
Garza is home in the Washington, D.C., area, training and trying to eat right. He has a dietitian/chef. This is business, trying to do everything possible to make himself a viable draft candidate for an NBA club.
In the meantime, he also has plunged into the business world. He auctioned off an NFT for $41,000 this spring, and has three more up for auction this week on the cryptosite Opensea.
NFTs — non-fungible tokens — are digital assets that are unique by design. Garza’s also include experiences, like going to one of his NBA games next season or being with him when his jersey number is retired at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Portions of what Garza has made/will make off the NFTs have gone/will go to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Garza made all sorts of appearances on business-oriented cable television networks and websites with little normal interest in sports when he promoted his first NFT.
His foray into digital collectibles has been followed by several other probable NBA draftees, and is a glimpse into how college athletes may be able to profit once name, image and likeness laws on their behalf inevitably become the law of the land.
But there’s no market for Garza if he isn’t an NBA player, and Washington-area gyms are the heart of where his focus is these days.
“I’ve also been adding to my offensive game,” he said, “working on my handle, continuing to work on my jump shot, and different moves in the post, fadeaways, step-backs, and different things that I can do facing the basket, but I’ll always (primarily) have my back to the basket.”
Recently, Garza went to Phoenix to attend Game 2 of the Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns playoff series. Jalen Smith of Maryland is a rookie for the Suns. Garza and Smith share the same agent.
“An unbelievable experience for me just to see it,” Garza said. “They were essentially trying to go at (Lakers center) Marc Gasol in ball-screen situations over and over and over and over again, and he was doing a really good job of not letting that get to him and continuing to guard those ball-screens.
“Just looking at his footwork. I’m continuing to work on that myself.”
For those who aren’t surefire lottery picks, nothing is given and everything is earned. If you look to the west, Iowa State had recent players in Georges Niang, Monte Morris and Talen Horton-Tucker who were second-round draft picks, spent time in the NBA G League, and who became rotation players for NBA teams currently in the Western Conference playoffs.
Watching the Lakers and Suns in person, Garza said, “I can see myself in those situations. “I feel like I can compete at this level.
“There’s always room for a big man that can stretch the floor. It’s a make-or-miss league and you have to be able to make shots.”
He made 55.3 percent of his last season, and sank 44 of 100 shots from 3-point distance.”
Garza has a couple of Zoom meetings scheduled with NBA teams before the Combine. Afterward, he’ll have a series of workouts with teams in their cities. The draft is July 29.
“It’s what I always dreamed of,” he said, “and that’s why I’m working so hard to put myself in the best position possible.”
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