IOWA CITY — Luka Garza said all along that his goal was to get back on the court for the Iowa basketball team in time to play in the season opener.
He has made it. Fairly easily by all appearances.
Garza not only played in Sunday’s 103-46 victory over Guilford College in the Hawkeyes’ preseason exhibition game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena but he started the game and played very well, scoring 11 points in 17 minutes. He’ll definitely be in the starting lineup Thursday when Iowa opens the regular season against UMKC.
Bear in mind Garza underwent major abdominal surgery about eight weeks ago. Surgeons removed a 9-pound cyst that was attached to his spleen and which contained more than four liters of fluid.
And he’s already back playing at a high level? Pretty impressive.
While Garza didn’t show much sign of rust, he did show some fatigue.
“I’ve been working on my recovery so I get a little tired, but it’s getting better every day,’’ he said. “It’s just one thing in the beginning of the year where I’m going to need to catch up and get back into the shape I was.’’
There was nothing wrong with his shooting touch. He made five of six shots from the field, including a 3-point field goal with 6½ minutes to go in the first half.
“I was able to shoot before I could start running so I was able to work on my form shooting,’’ Garza said. “Shooting is just a feel that comes back … I took a couple of weeks off but when I came back my shot felt really good.’’
Wait ‘til next year: It was announced prior to Sunday’s game that guard CJ Fredrick will redshirt as a freshman, something he apparently was considering even before suffering a rib injury in practice.
“It was something that we had talked about but I think his injury really solidified it for him,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s not ready to go. So he can now get healthy, get after it with (strength training coach Bill) Maxwell in the weight room, learn three positions and be ready to go.
“It will space the classes a little bit better because we’ve got three guards that play a lot in the junior class. They’ll be seniors and he’ll be a freshman (next season) and it spaces it much better for us. He’s going to be terrific. CJ’s really good.’’
Towering lineup: With their two shortest scholarship players — Fredrick and Jordan Bohannon — in street clothes Sunday, the Hawkeyes never had a player shorter than 6-foot-5 on the court until about five minutes remained.
There was about a five-minute stretch of the first half in which they had 6-7 Maishe Dailey, 6-7 Nicholas Baer, 6-8 Cordell Pemsl, 6-9 Ryan Kriener and 6-11 Jack Nunge on the floor together.
Guilford had only one player taller than 6-6 — 6-8 senior Trent Wells — and he played only three minutes.
Thievery: While the Hawkeyes were generally critical of their defensive effort Sunday, they did do one thing very well. They forced 26 turnovers and finished the game with 15 steals. Their high during the regular season a year ago was 10 steals.
New stats: Iowa’s sports information department is using a new box score format for the media this season that is more detailed in some ways.
Among the additions is a column for plus/minus, like what is used in hockey.
Not a single Iowa player had a minus number Sunday. Connor McCaffery led the way with a +38 — which means the Hawkeyes outscored the opposition by 38 points while he was on the court — followed by Tyler Cook at +32, Isaiah Moss at +30 and Dailey at +30.