By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The first time Luka Garza was in front of Hawkeye fans in Iowa City in over a year came Saturday on a football field of all places.
Garza, who was the consensus national player of the year, was presented with the Naismith Trophy before the Iowa football team’s final open spring practice.
Head coach Fran McCaffery, Garza’s family and the rest of the team joined Garza at midfield.
Garza began his speech by thanking McCaffery and saying that he wouldn’t be where he is without McCaffery.
“I can remember texting coach after my sophomore season and wishing him a happy birthday,” Garza said. “He responded and told me he thought I was going to be the Big Ten Player of the Year next year. No coach has ever believed in me as much as coach McCaffery, and that started with the first time he saw me play.”
McCaffery was the first Power Five conference coach to offer Garza a scholarship.
Prior to Garza speaking, a highlight video play on the jumbotron.
During the 2020-21 season, Garza passed Roy Marble to become Iowa’s all-time leading scorer.
Garza was named the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Player of the Year as a junior and senior.
The Washington D.C., native is the only player in Big Ten history with more than 2,250 career points and 900 career rebounds.
As a senior, Garza averaged 24.9 points per game.
Iowa announced after the season that Garza’s No. 55 will be retired.
Iowa began the season ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 and spent most of the season ranked top 10 before being eliminated by Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa went 22-9 overall and 14-6 in Big Ten play, the most conference wins since 1986-87.