There's no actual basketball (sob), but there's still plenty of basketball news thanks to AWARD SZN. And for the first time in a very, very long time AWARD SZN in men's college basketball is of interest to us as Iowa fans because of one Luka Garza. Garza, named Iowa's first-ever Big Ten Player of the Year last week, has continued to rack up big honors on the national scene. The latest? AP First Team All-America honors.
Luka Garza continues to pile the accolades during this long offseason. On Friday morning, he was named a first team all-American by the Associated Press.https://t.co/L6kStSkPOq— David Eickholt (@DavidEickholt) March 20, 2020
Garza, who was named to the first team on 63 of 65 ballots, was joined on the AP All-America First Team by Dayton's Obi Toppin (the only unanimous selection), Seton Hall's Myles Powell, Oregon's Payton Pritchard, and Marquette's Markus Howard. If you're wondering when Iowa last had an AP All-America First Teamer... well, it's been a while. Like "almost 70 years" a while.
Luka Garza Named AP First-Team All-America.— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 20, 2020
Garza joins Murray Wier (1948) and Charles Darling (1952) as the only #Hawkeyes named AP First-Team All-Americans: https://t.co/wTCkL6ZZng#VoteGarza: https://t.co/MfTNIRaFiz pic.twitter.com/6W53W4GXtx
Charles "Chuck" Darling was the last Iowa men's basketball player to earn AP First Team All-America honors, way back in 1952. Murray Weir, named to the AP All-American First Team back in 1948, is the only other Iowa player in that club. Becoming the first member of that club in nearly 70 years highlights what an exceptional, program-defining season Garza has had this year. He's been utterly amazing all year long and it's fantastic to see how outstanding play recognized on a national level.
Garza finished the season with 740 points and 305 rebounds; per Hawk Central, only two other Big Ten players have ever posted those numbers like that in a season (Glenn Robinson and Joe Barry Carroll). On a national level, Garza ranked third in field goals made (287), fifth in scoring (23.9 ppg), 34th in rebounding (9.8 rpg), and 19th in double-doubles (15). He had more 20-point games (25) than all but one other player and he ranked 10th nationally in 30-point games (5). 11 of those 20-point games came against Top 25 opponents; no Division I player has had more in a single season since Kemba Walker had 14 20-point games against Top 25 opponents in 2010-11. Luka Garza got buckets and he did so better than almost any other men's college basketball player this year.
AP First Team All-American is only the latest national achievement that Garza has received, too. We've been lax in reporting on all of them, although to be fair, there's also been a new one like every single day. But Garza was named ESPN Player of the Year on Tuesday:
He's also been named Player of the Year by Sporting News, Basketball Times, Stadium, and Bleacher Report; he's the first Iowa player ever to earn National Player of the Year recognition. Dick Vitale, Andy Katz, and Seth Davis all recognized him their National Player of the Year as well.
Garza was named a first team All-American by several other outlets as well: Sporting News, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, ESPN, USA Today, The Athletic, and Stadium. He's a finalist for several more national awards as well, including the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, and the Lute Olson Award. The Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award are two of the biggest individual honors in men's college basketball; you can cast a vote for Garza for the Naismith Trophy here and for the Wooden Award here.
The AP Men's Basketball Player of the Year Award will be announced next Tuesday. It's already been a hardware-filled spring for Luka Garza; hopefully he's able to add a few more pieces to his collection over the next few weeks.
It was a joy to watch Garza maul Big Ten opponents (as well as non-Big Ten opponents) night in and night out over the last few months. The Peacock has been flying majestically all year long and it's been wonderful to watch Garza school opponents with a dizzying array of interior attacks, bomb threes from outside, and play with incredible energy from the first minute to the last. Congratulations, Luka, on a richly-deserved honor and for having such an incredible season.