IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa men’s basketball doesn’t have a true center on its roster this year, but it’s a role that Luka Garza could fill next year with the Hawkeyes.
Garza, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound senior post player from the Maret School in Washington, D.C., signed his letter of intent Wednesday to play for the Hawkeyes. Garza averaged 26.1 points per game last year.
“I saw him two years ago now and fell in love with his game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “What’s interesting is how his game has transformed. I loved his game initially. He was an incredible shooter for a guy that big. He was big, thick and physical, and he has subsequently changed his body. He lost 30-35 pounds. He’s quicker, he’s more mobile, he’s bouncier off the floor, he uses his length.
“He’s a rare combination of a guy with a really good low-post game who can stretch the floor and make 3s and who understands how to compete on every possession, and that’s a rare combination when you get a guy who is 6-10 and a 7-3 wingspan and can stretch the floor and play smash mouth inside. Up-and-unders and jump hooks, and those kinds of moves, you don’t see a lot of that anymore.”
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) November 9, 2016
Garza, who was rated a 3-star player by Rivals, is one of three recruits entering the Hawkeyes program next year. Jack Nunge, a 6-9 power forward from Newburgh, Ind., plans to sign Thursday. The other, McCaffery’s oldest son Connor, will not sign this fall. Connor McCaffery, a 4-star Rivals guard, plans to play both baseball and basketball at Iowa. If a scholarship is not available, he will walk on.
Coach McCaffery compared Garza’s game to Boston Celtics legend Kevin McHale. Garza also has elements of former center Adam Woodbury’s game. Woodbury was a strong on-court communicator and that’s something McCaffery said Garza will do as well.
“You can run your offense through (Garza) either in the high post or the low post,” McCaffery said. “When you watch him run, he doesn’t look like he’s running well, except he’s always down the floor faster than everybody else because he runs as hard as he possibly can every time. That’s a gift. That’s special.”
Garza’s future teammates raved about his skill set and work ethic after working out with him during open gym sessions.
“He’s got a lot of skill to him,” sophomore forward Ahmad Wagner said. “He’s got that physicality that Woody’s got and that tough mentality but also got some good skill to him. (Garza) can go outside and hit that 15-foot jumper; Woody could, too. But Luka’s got some skill to him.”
“He’s a monster already,” freshman forward Tyler Cook said. “He’s a monster on the boards. He can shoot the ball. I think he’ll be real good for us once he gets here.”
Connor McCaffery guided Iowa City West to the Class 4A state final last year after leading the Trojans to third place in 2015 and the title in 2014. Last year, McCaffery averaged 15.5 points per game, knocked down 46 3-pointers and dished a team-best 117 assists.
But Connor McCaffery also is a top baseball prospect. He hit .407 for the Class 4A runner-up and had 22 extra-base hits, including eight home runs.
“Baseball has always been a factor,” coach McCaffery said. “I just don’t think it was a factor to anybody else. He’s always been a really good baseball player, and I never wanted him to say, ‘All right, I’m coming to Iowa to play basketball so therefore I’ll stop playing baseball.’ I don’t think that would be fair to him.
“He’s trying to figure out, ‘Do I need to pick or do I need to continue to play both? Can I play both? Is it feasible or am I going to suffer in each as I move forward?’ That’s not an easy decision.”
Once Nunge signs, Iowa will have one player over the scholarship limit for 2017-18. Coach McCaffery, who transferred from Wake Forest to Penn as an athlete in the 1970s, has no concerns over next year’s roster.
“Sometimes people leave,” coach McCaffery said. “It’s part of it. You anticipate that happening. You don’t want it to happen.”