116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDIANAPOLIS — All anyone with a heart could do was ache for Luka Garza Monday afternoon, because every bit of his big heart was aching.
Iowa's All-Everything senior center was a sorrowful giant after the Hawkeyes' 95-80 NCAA tournament second-round loss to Oregon Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Garza scored 36 points Monday, but even that wasn't close to enough. His exit from the court in the game's last minutes said it all. His head was down and his eyes were watery, but every coach, player and support-staff member within his reach gave the giant a bear hug of appreciation that was reciprocated.
'It kind of hit me all at once,' Garza said. 'Looking up at the scoreboard, (realizing) I will never put this jersey on again.'
Garza finished his career with an Iowa-record 2,306 points and 931 rebounds in 126 games. The numbers don't define the player, though. Garza's constant spirit and non-stop relentlessness will be remembered long after his post moves and 3-pointers.
'I couldn't be more grateful for his decision to come back,' Iowa junior guard Joe Wieskamp said. 'You could just feel his energy and passion for what he wanted to lead our team to this year.
'He helped make a better player, and a better leader as well.'
Garza came to Iowa from the Washington, D.C. area without fanfare. He will leave with most and maybe all the major National Player of the Year awards this spring. He already has gotten the one from Associated Press.
'I was ranked No. 100 in my class,' Garza said. 'A lot of teams stayed away, they didn't want to recruit me. I was too slow, everything you could imagine. Couldn't jump. He's not going to be able to score at the next level, all of this.
'Coach McCaffery saw right through that. … Fran McCaffery changed my life.'
Garza played to win, and Iowa won a lot the last three years with him. But that's all past-tense now.
'To come here and fall short again, not get to the Sweet 16 and beyond, it's heartbreaking,' he said. 'It just wasn't meant to be. It's something that's going to sting for the rest of my life.'
As for junior wing Wieskamp, it is unclear if this also was his last game as a Hawkeye as well or if he'll make the jump to professional ball.
'I appreciate that question,' Wieskamp said. 'At this time I'm soaking in what just happened and I'll address that at a later time.'
Wieskamp is a second-team All-Big Ten honoree who has 1,328 points over three seasons.
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