WASHINGTON — DC native Luka Garza of Iowa is The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. The 6-foot-11, 265-pound senior received 50 of 63 votes from a national media panel.
Garza, who played his prep-basketball at DC's Maret School, ranked second nationally by averaging 24.1 points with 8.7 rebounds. He improved shooting percentages across the board – including going from 36% on 3-pointers last year to 44% – and his assist-to-turnover ratio after working on passing ahead of double- and triple-teams he knew would come all season long.
Garza led the Hawkeyes to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, then accounted for nearly half their points (36 of 80) in a second-round upset loss to Oregon. He finished as the career scoring leader (2,306) at Iowa.
“We may never see another one like him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said about his star player.
In March, Iowa announced after its final home game of the season that it would retire Garza's 55 jersey number to honor his greatness with the program.
Garza credits much of his success to meditation. He says it helped him handle the pressure that came with high expectations this season.
As a senior, Garza moved to daily meditation, typically 20 to 25 minutes via Zoom with his father and Frank’s business partner, GuruGanesha Khalsa. Pregame sessions sometimes included some teammates, and Luka also used the Calm meditation-and-sleep phone app.
“I got to a point where I was waking up and I did a meditation every single day throughout the season because it was a daily thing that I was dealing with,” he said. “I’d turn on the TV and my name was being talked about. I needed to be able to just focus on what I wanted to accomplish as a team.”
Some of that bled into games, too, with Garza practicing breathing exercises before free throws or during timeouts.
He's sticking with meditation, too, as he pursues an NBA career. He has all the proof he needs that it can work.
“There's a lot of things in life that you want to happen or want to go better than they are and everything like that," he said. "So it's going to hit somebody at some point, and it's just a very useful tool for really anybody.”