Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa's Luka Garza wins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award

Hawkeye junior named top center in the country

Iowa junior Luka Garza, celebrating in January, won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the country's top center today. (Re
Iowa junior Luka Garza, celebrating in January, won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the country’s top center today. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The awards keep coming for University of Iowa junior Luka Garza.

On Tuesday, the consensus All-American men’s basketball player was named winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.

The announcement came from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In its sixth year, Garza is the first Iowa player and third from the Big Ten to win the award, named after Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,

“I have looked up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar my entire life,” Garza said in a release from the University of Iowa. “To win an award in his name is a tremendous honor and one that I share with my family. I am incredibly grateful to have the coaching staff, group of teammates, and my family, which put me in position to win this award.”

Last week, the 6-foot-11 Garza was winner of the NABC Pete Newell Big Man of the Year Award. He has been named national player of the year by six organizations, including ESPN and Sporting News.

The Wooden Award will be announced later Tuesday.

“Luka Garza is a very intelligent player and it shows in his efficiency with the ball,” Abdul-Jabbar said in the release. “To have 25 games with 20 points or more is no easy task and it proves the level of effort and focus he sustained throughout the season.”

Garza is Iowa’s third consensus All-American, joining Murray Wier (1948) and Charles Darling (1952).

“I am extremely proud of Luka and our program,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said in the release. “Knowing the amount of respect that Luka has for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this award is incredibly special for Luka. No player in the country was as productive and consistent — against the quality of teams and players in the Big Ten — than Luka Garza in 2020.

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“It’s rewarding to watch a young man work and grow the way Luka has and to see the commitment he has to his teammates, to the program, and to his family.”

Garza scored 740 points and pulled down 305 rebounds this past season and the first Big Ten player to total 740-plus points and 300-plus rebounds in a single-season since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994. He averaging 26.2 points per Big Ten game, becoming the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Robinson in ’94. 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.

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