Iowa's Luka Garza Wins 2021 Naismith Men's Player of the Year

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 3, 2021

Iowa center Luka Garza reacts after making a basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin, Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Iowa star Luka Garza has capped his storied college career by earning the 2021 Naismith Men's Player of the Year award.

The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the news Saturday. He beat out Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham, Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu and Gonzaga's Corey Kispert to win the award. 

Garza issued a statement upon being named the winner:

"Winning an award in Naismith's name is an honor my family and I will always treasure. Naismith changed my life, and so many others, by creating the game that so many love. In 2015, when my dad and I watched Frank Kaminsky accept the Naismith Trophy in Indianapolis, I never thought I would be in this position six years later.

I am forever thankful to the University of Iowa, Coach [Fran] McCaffery, the rest of the coaching staff, my teammates, my family and the countless other people and coaches who have helped me along the way. This is not an individual honor but a team award, and I am so proud to be able to bring this award home to Iowa City. Thank you to the Atlanta Tipoff Club for this prestigious award and thank you to Naismith for changing my life and so many others with the game of basketball."

This is the second time in three years that the Hawkeyes have had a Naismith Player of the Year winner. Megan Gustafson won the women's award as a senior in 2018-19 to cap off her iconic career. 

Garza was a finalist for the Naismith Men's Player of the Year award last season but lost to Obi Toppin of Dayton. 

There was some doubt about whether Garza would be with Iowa this season. He declared for the 2020 NBA draft in April but decided not to hire an agent to retain his college eligibility. 

Garza announced in August that he was running it back with the Hawkeyes. The move paid off for him and the team. The 22-year-old post 24.1 points per game. He also shot a career-high 44 percent from three-point range, averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per contest. 

Iowa went 22-9, spent most of the year ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press poll and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA men's tournament. 

While the Hawkeyes' hopes for a title ended in the second round, Garza capped off his college career by scoring 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting in the 95-80 loss against Oregon.