Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa's Luka Garza denied the John Wooden Award as national player of the year

Garza was named the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award winner Tuesday, though

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) didn't win the John Wooden Award as national player of the year Tuesday, but he did receiver
Iowa center Luka Garza (55) didn’t win the John Wooden Award as national player of the year Tuesday, but he did receiver the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the nation’s top center. Here he is celebrating a 3-pointer during the Hawkeyes’ 96-72 win over Nebraska on Feb. 8 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Assuming he returns to Iowa for his senior season, Luka Garza will be the preseason favorite for the men’s college basketball National Player of the Year awards.

For the season that ended last month, however, Dayton sophomore forward Obi Toppin capped a sweep of the most-prestigious Player of the Year honors Tuesday when he was given the John R. Wooden Award.

Toppin averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Flyers, who won their last 20 games, went 29-2, and had an 18-0 record in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He previously was named the Citizen Naismith Trophy winner and Associated Press’ men’s Player of the Year.

Garza, a 6-11 junior center, was the National Player of the Year choice of The Sporting News, Basketball Times, Stadium, The Athletic, Bleacher Report and ESPN, and was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year.

Garza tweeted this late Tuesday afternoon: Hawkeye Nation- Before you all react, I just want to say that winning 1/6 NPOY awards, and to be named NPOY by 6 other media outlets is a tremendous honor for my family, the University of Iowa, and myself. Let’s all congratulate @obitoppin1 for his incredible season!

Garza didn’t come away empty Tuesday, however. He was named the winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The honor recognizes the top center in Division I men’s college basketball. He is the first Hawkeye and third Big Ten player to earn the honor in its six-year history.

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“I have looked up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar my entire life,” Garza said. “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. Lastly, I’d like to thank the loyal support of Hawkeye Nation!”

Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Hawkeyes. He averaged 26.2 points in Big Ten games, and scored at least 20 in his last 16 conference contests, the first Big Ten player to do so since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987.

He has yet to formally declare he will return to Iowa next season, but Garza has given no  indication otherwise. Iowa has been listed in several early preseason top 10s with the assumption he does come back to the Hawkeyes. Iowa was 20-11 overall in 2019-20, 11-9 in the Big Ten.

In other Hawkeye basketball news, junior forward Riley Till has entered the NCAA transfer portal. The Dubuque native averaged 0.7 points in 18 games for the Hawkeyes last season.

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

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