Luka Garza has a decision to make.
Either the 6-foot-11 center follows up his record-breaking junior season at Iowa by coming back for his senior year, or he turns professional and keeps his name in the 2020 NBA Draft.
As first reported by 247 Sports, Garza will announce his decision August 2, a day before the deadline for players to withdraw their names from the draft. The Washington, D.C. native said he arrived at this date to maximize the time to make his decision.
“See if there’s any more announcements about anything that’s going to happen,” Garza said July 23 during a Facebook Live session on Iowa’s page. “I have another interview set up, so I want to be able to do that. And then talk to my family and coaches, the people close to me, to make the best decision possible.”
By the time Garza has to make his decision, it’s likely he won’t even know how his senior season would look if he did opt to return. The NCAA Board of Governors will meet August 4 to determine the fate of fall sport championships. The Big Ten has already opted to move to conference-only schedules for fall sports.
How all this will impact the men’s basketball season will not be answered before Garza and the other draft hopefuls are forced to come to a decision, unless the deadline is moved back.
Garza’s experience with a unique 2020 draft process
After being named a consensus All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year following his junior season, Garza announced April 10 that he was going to go through the NBA Draft process.
In the announcement he released on Twitter, Garza made it clear he would maintain his eligibility through the process should he choose to return to Iowa. He also shared that it would take a “real opportunity” for him to forgo his final year in the Black and Gold.
“I’m not going to go in without 100 percent confidence of being able to make a roster,” Garza said April 10. “I don’t see any interest in ending up in the G-League without any type of deal or anything like that. I think that’s something I can be able to get after my senior year. I want to hear where a team takes me and where they see me. It really only takes one team.”
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said on a Facebook Live session June 25 that Garza has been meeting with NBA teams virtually over the past several months.
During a traditional offseason, Garza would be going through these meetings in person and have the chance to take part in the NBA Combine.
This offseason is anything but normal.
The combine was originally scheduled for May 21-24 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has yet to be rescheduled. Garza has received an invitation to the combine, according to 247 Sports.
McCaffery said June 25 that if Garza had the opportunity to play in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments — both of which were canceled due to COVID-19 — he could have played his way into the first round of the draft.
Garza is not a projected first-round pick in any of the latest mock drafts done by ESPN, CBS Sports, or The Ringer. An anonymous NBA executive told Stadium Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman in April that Garza should stay in school.
“I know what he did last season in college, but he could use one more year to work on his body, his perimeter shot, and his defense,” the executive told Goodman. “Then maybe he gets drafted.”
McCaffery said Garza will have opportunities to play professionally, even if that’s not necessarily in the NBA.
“Europe is obviously always another option for somebody like him,” McCaffery said June 25. “He’s a guy that could command big money in the EuroLeague. He’ll have opportunities to play professionally should he choose to do so.”
The NBA draft lottery is set for August 20, with the draft to follow on October 16.
How the decision will impact the Hawkeyes
Iowa was a team that surprised people last season.
Despite dealing with injuries throughout the year and entering the season with low expectations, the Hawkeyes finished the regular season 20-11. A large part of that was Garza’s 23.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game.
Iowa, especially if Garza comes back, won’t be sneaking up on anyone next season.
Talented veterans Joe Wieskamp, Connor McCaffery, and CJ Fredrick will return to the starting lineup next season. Jordan Bohannon, Jack Nunge, and Patrick McCaffery are also set to return after they all missed the majority of last season with varying injuries and health issues.
Add in Joe Toussaint along with a talented freshman class and the Hawkeyes head into the 2020-21 season as a national preseason favorite.
But Garza’s potential return is again the centerpiece in determining what to expect out of next season’s Iowa squad. His teammates have said they are giving him space to make his decision.
“I try not to ask him too much about it,” Nunge told Iowa.Media in July. “He’s working out with us like he’s going to be here with us. I think we all want him to come back because we all know how good we can be with him back. We’re pretty much just preparing as if he’s going to come back. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be his decision whether he wants to go pro or not.”
“When Luka comes back it’s going to make a big difference, if he comes back,” Toussaint told the DI in June. “But we’d still have great individual talent that we all can show and help each other [if he doesn’t].”
College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein has Iowa as his No. 3 team in the nation in his preseason rankings.
As a guest on the College Hoops Today with Jon Rothstein podcast, McCaffery acknowledged that Iowa will certainly be a better team if Garza comes back. But, according to Iowa’s 11th-year head coach, Garza has his full support through this process — even if that means Garza has played his last game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I want what’s best for Luka,” McCaffery told Rothstein. “That’s the way it has to be. I can’t weigh that with anything that would be considered selfish. Luka knows if he comes back, we’re going to be a better team than if he doesn’t come back. Our chances to advance and do some special things are right there if he chooses to come back… He knows he has my full support in that pursuit.”
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