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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Luka Garza has been named the recipient of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. The announcement was made by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
Named after Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the annual honor in its sixth year recognizes the top center in Division I men’s college basketball. He is the first Hawkeye to win the award and the third Big Ten player to earn the honor.
“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!”
No player was more dominant in the paint in 2019-20 than Garza. Last week, the 6-foot-11 center was the recipient of the NABC Pete Newell Big Man of the Year Award.
“Luka Garza is a very intelligent player and it shows in his efficiency with the ball,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “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. Congratulations to Luka on this award and a remarkable junior year.”
Last month, six major news outlets named Garza as its national player of the year: Sporting News, Basketball Times, Stadium, Bleacher Report, FOX, and ESPN. He is the first Iowa men’s basketball player to earn national player of the year distinction. Garza was also a unanimous consensus first-team All-America selection. He joins former Hawkeyes Murray Wier (1948) and Charles Darling (1952) as the program’s only consensus first team All-Americans.
“I am extremely proud of Luka and our program,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “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,” added McCaffery. “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 (740 points and 305 rebounds) is one of three Big Ten players to ever to total 740+ points and 300+ rebounds in a single-season (Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 and Purdue’s Joe Barry Carroll in 1979). He ranked second nationally with 12 20-point/10-rebound performances, 20-point games (25); third in total field goals made (287) and points per 40 minutes played (29.8), fifth in scoring (23.9), 10th in 30-point games (5), 19th in double-doubles (15) and offensive rebounds per game (3.58), and 34th in rebounding (9.8). His 15 double-doubles are third most in a single-season by a Hawkeye in three decades and the most since 2002 (Reggie Evans, 18). Garza averaged 26.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 12 games against AP ranked opponents in 2019-20, including recording 11 straight 20-point performances, the longest streak by any player since UConn’s Kemba Walker in 2011.
The Big Ten and USBWA District VI Player of the Year, finished the 20-game conference schedule averaging 26.2 points per game, becoming the first player to average at least 26 points in Big Ten play since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 (31.1 ppg). Garza scored a school-record 740 points this season, breaking the program’s 50-year old record previously set by John Johnson in 1970. 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.
Garza is the only Big Ten player to register seven 25-point/10-rebound performances in the same season in more than 17 years. He has produced the two highest point totals in a game by a Big Ten player this season (44 at Michigan; 38 at Indiana).
LUKA GARZA HONORS (2019-20)
• Sporting News, Basketball Times, Stadium, Bleacher Report, FOX, and ESPN National Player of the Year
• Dick Vitale, Seth Davis, Andy Katz’s National Player of the Year
• Unanimous Consensus First-Team All-America
• NABC Pete Newell Big Man of the Year
• Naismith Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year
• Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year
• USBWA District VI Player of the Year
• Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Trophy, and Lute Olson Award finalist