Iowa Men's Basketball

Will Luka Garza return to Iowa? 'We should know relatively soon,' Fran McCaffery says

Hawkeyes 1 announcement from being fully Luka'ed and loaded

Illinois Fighting Illini forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) goes to the hoop into the defense of Iowa's Luka Garza (55),
Illinois Fighting Illini forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) goes to the hoop into the defense of Iowa’s Luka Garza (55), Jordan Bohannon (3) and Joe Wieskamp (10) during a 2019 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said those three players and Connor McCaffery are his 2020-21 captains. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Luka Garza, staying or going?

“We should know relatively soon,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday in a Facebook Live session with Hawkeye fans, then discussed his team’s 2020-21 outlook as if Garza were fully in the fold.

Garza is the All-America center who is an early entry for the NBA Draft, but who hasn’t signed with an agent or committed to turning pro. The NBA has a pushed-back deadline of Aug. 17 for early entries to remain in the Oct. 16 draft. Garza is in Iowa City working out with his college team.

“He’s in the gym right now, 20 yards from where I’m sitting,” McCaffery said during his video meeting with Hawkeye supporters.

“He’s had meetings (via Zoom) with GMs and various teams,” McCaffery said. “I’m sure they’ve gone well. He’s talked to agents, which is legal, to get feedback and information.

“Europe is obviously another option for somebody like him. He’ll have options to play professionally should he choose to do so. He could command big money in EuroLeague.”

However, when McCaffery spoke of the season ahead, he sounded like Garza was an assumed part of his multi-pronged squad.

The coach said he has four captains, naming guards Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery, forward Joe Wieskamp, and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and multiple National Player of the Year award-winner, Garza.

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“You could say that we actually have seven starters,” McCaffery said, adding forward Jack Nunge and guards CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint to the aforementioned four players. Nunge and Bohannon were starting last season before Nunge suffered an early-season knee injury and Bohannon opted to play just 10 games and then have his second hip surgery of the year.

“You start with those seven veteran guys,” said McCaffery, “and that’s something you always want when you feel like you have a team that can contend for a national championship. You need veteran guys.

“But then you add (redshirt freshman forward) Patrick (McCaffery) … and then five incredibly talented incoming freshmen (guards Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis, forwards Keegan and Kris Murray, and center Josh Ogundele).”

It all makes the 11th-year Iowa coach and his team’s fans hope a 2020-21 season goes off without a hitch even more than they normally would.

“We’ve got without question the deepest team that I’ve had since I’ve been here,” McCaffery said, “maybe the deepest team I’ve had since got into the coaching profession.”

Notes: Ogundele is home in London, waiting to get to Iowa to join his new team for summer classes and team workouts. “Hopefully that will be taken care of short order,” McCaffery said.

The coach said redshirt senior Bohannon “is in the best shape of his life,” and redshirts Nunge and Patrick McCaffery are also “in really good position physically.”

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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