Iowa Men's Basketball

Luka Garza lost a "basketball," and that's good

Hawkeye sophomore's benign cyst was like him: Huge

Iowa basketball forward Luka Garza poses during his team’s Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa basketball forward Luka Garza poses during his team’s Media Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Injuries, illnesses, aches and pains were as familiar to Iowa men’s basketball last season as losing Big Ten games, which the Hawkeyes did 14 times in 18 starts.

Junior forward Nicholas Baer missed the first six games with a broken finger. His shooting percentage wasn’t close to what it was in his first two seasons as a Hawkeye.

Freshman guard Connor McCaffery had a sprained ankle that cost him two games, a bout with mononucleosis that kept him out of eight more, then a late-December tonsillectomy that shelved him for the rest of the season.

Guard Brady Ellingson missed four games with a concussion. Forward Ryan Kriener had a pair of concussions and sat out six games.

Starting guard Jordan Bohannon played every game, but dealt with plantar fasciitis in his right foot all season. Heel pain isn’t a point guard’s best friend.

That’s a lot for one team, but ninth-year Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said he isn’t offering that or anything else as an excuse for Iowa’s first losing season since McCaffery’s first year here.

“I don’t think you want to, as a coach in that situation, make excuses for anybody, for myself, for players,” McCaffery said.

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“You can start listing them if you want to, but I don’t know if it does anybody any good.”

His team’s health is good right now, with one big exception. Six-foot-11 sophomore Luka Garza isn’t practicing as he recovers from September surgery to remove a benign cyst in his abdomen. Garza began running this week, and looked and sounded healthy Monday at his team’s Media Day. But what a thing he was carrying.

“It was like the size of a basketball,” Garza said. “It was nine pounds. 4.3 liters of fluid came out of it. It was pretty big. I automatically dropped nine pounds with the surgery.”

It wasn’t anything Garza was aware of until he started feeling pain in August, and then “It was pretty uncomfortable. It was hard to stand up straight.”

An ultrasound didn’t detect anything. Then a CT scan was taken, and the diagnosis and call for surgery was made.

“I’m blessed the surgery went well,” said Garza. “I’m feeling normal for a change.

“I dropped a lot of weight. I was 245, but I dropped to 227. I’ve gone back to 238.”

Garza is expected to be able to return to playing around the time Iowa opens its season Nov. 8 at home against Missouri-Kansas City.

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Garza averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds last season and played his best ball in the season’s last six games.

“Luka’s huge,” Iowa junior forward Tyler Cook said, “literally and figuratively.”

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

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