Motivation Helps Garza In Offseason – Sports Illustrated

Posted: April 12, 2020 at 8:43 pm


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Luka Garza didn't get the closure to his season that he wanted when the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments were canceled.

So the Iowa junior center got back in the gym right away, even though it wasn't going to be like any other postseason workout.

Instead of getting shots up in the Hawkeyes' practice facility, Garza is back at home in the Washington, D.C., area, trying to find gyms where he can work out during this time of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

"When the season ends, youre kind of ready to take a little break," Garza said on a Friday teleconference. "I obviously wasnt."

Garza, coming off a season in which he was a consensus All-American and won six national player-of-the-year honors, announced on Friday that he was going to enter the NBA Draft process, but not hire an agent to keep his NCAA eligibility.

Garza said it would take a "real opportunity" to go to the NBA and pass on his final year with the Hawkeyes, who are considered to be among the best teams in the nation and a Big Ten title favorite next season if Garza returns.

If anything, Garza said, he'll appreciate the feedback from NBA teams, but he already has his own analysis on his game.

"First off, I think I bring a lot to a team in terms of the way I play and how hard I play," he said. "No matter what team is interested, they will know 100 percent that if they take me, that Im a guy who is going to go in and make the most of every opportunity they give me, go as hard as I can, be willing to work and hear criticism and all of that.

"I think Im a guy whose shot will translate to the next level. As well as my post game I feel confident in my ability to score on the block. No matter what level I play at, I know Im able to score on bigger and stronger defenders, those guys who are a similar size to me."

Garza, though, knows there are parts of his game that need improving.

"I know I definitely need to work on, obviously for the NBA but even for next year, just my lateral quickness, my lateral movement, my ability to guard ball screens, my on-ball defense, just everything on defense," he said. "I think I took a huge stride this season in my defense and my ability to protect the rim.

"Im all ears in this process. Im always a guy who is open to criticism and always takes any knowledge I can get to improve my game. Thats a very important piece of it."

Garza was especially dominant in Big Ten play, averaging 26.2 points and 9.7 rebounds on his way to being named the conference's player of the year. He closed the season with a 16-game streak of scoring 20 points or more in Big Ten games, the longest streak in the conference since 1987.

He was named the national player of the year by Sporting News, Basketball Times, ESPN, FOX, Stadium and Bleacher Report. But he missed out on other national awards, like the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy, that went to Dayton's Obi Toppin.

Garza congratulated Toppin with a Twitter post on Tuesday night after the Wooden Award was announced.

"Honestly, the whole time, for me it was a blessing to be in the conversation," he said. "To be widely considered as a top-two candidate is something Ill always remember for the rest of my life. Being a finalist for those awards is something I honestly could have never dreamed of.

"That meant a lot to me."

Garza said it was "a little upsetting" when he didn't win some of the awards, but that sentiment quickly faded.

"Youve just got to realize that thats not why I play the game of basketball. Its not for the awards, its not for the recognition," he said. "Its because I love the game."

Asked what has been driving him since the end of the season, Garza said, "The same motivation I take into every offseason I want to improve, I want to take bigger steps. Im never really comfortable, definitely not content, with where Im at as a player right now. As a basketball player, Im always trying to push toward my potential, and I think I havent reached that yet. Every day is just another effort in trying to make that happen, trying to get closer to my potential.

"Im not satisfied with what happened this year."

Garza said his break in workouts won't last long. He admits that finding places to work has become more difficult.

"Its been harder, its not the usual offseason," he said. "Where theres a will, theres a way. And if you want to improve, youll find a way."

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Motivation Helps Garza In Offseason - Sports Illustrated

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April 12th, 2020 at 8:43 pm

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