Iowa center Luka Garza, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and runner-up for the Naismith Award, is returning for his senior season at Iowa.
Garza followed his announcement -- and one of the greatest Bad Photoshops ever -- with a press conference, where he said he didn't feel it would be right for his career to end without one more run "with the best team I've ever played for." He also cited Fran McCaffery's belief in him as a high schooler and his love of his teammates and the inability to play in the NCAA Tournament last year with this team.
His teammates are also pretty happy about the decision:
Hell yessssss!!!! https://t.co/HXMDHJ1DS1— Jordan Bohannon (@JordanBo_3) August 2, 2020
There had been some question of whether Garza could change his mind before the NBA's Draft deadline of August 17. Garza shot that down: "Unless someone told me I would be the #1 pick, I'm happy where I'm at." He said he's heard from NBA teams that he'll be a player in the league when he makes the jump, but he decided this wasn't the time for it.
Garza will be the prohibitive favorite for National Player of the Year entering the 2020-21 season. Iowa, by most accounts, will be a preseason top 5 team and Big Ten co-favorite with Garza back. The Hawkeyes now return six of the top seven scorers from last season's team, which was projected to receive a top 6 seed in the NCAAs, should they have been played. That includes Garza, fifth-year senior Jordan Bohannon (who missed the entire Big Ten season due to injury), junior foward Joe Wieskamp, and sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick. It will be the most-hyped Iowa basketball team since at least 2001-02, and perhaps since the 1987-88 season. The Hawkeyes haven't been to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 1998-99. That will be the baseline for success this year. The expectations will be higher than anything a McCaffery-coached Iowa team has faced.
Of course, all of this depends on whether there's even a basketball season, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, the issue of whether there would even be a season has been a point of discussion between Garza and McCaffery, and both are confident there will be "some sort" of a basketball season. Garza said he was confident that the Big Ten and NCAA would find a way to safely conduct a basketball season.