NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — OK, Iowa fans, just keep repeating this to yourself.
It’s only a summer league. It’s only a summer league.
You’ll need to do that to keep from building up unreasonable expectations for the two newest additions to the Hawkeye basketball program.
A few hundred fans crammed into Roberts Gym at the North Liberty Community Center on Sunday afternoon to watch the Hawkeyes’ 6-foot-10 bookend recruits, Luka Garza and Jack Nunge, go up against one another in the first round of games in the Prime Time Summer League.
A dozen Iowa players are competing in the league, but everyone knows what Nicholas Baer, Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon can do. This was everyone’s first glimpse of Garza and Nunge.
The fans didn’t walk away disappointed. It’s pretty obvious these two are going to help the Hawkeyes right away.
Maybe a lot.
Garza scored 41 points and grabbed 11 rebounds Sunday, making 18 of 26 shots from the field and the only two 3-point shots he attempted, and he seemed genuinely miffed that his Westport Touchless Autowash team didn’t win the game.
Nunge had 35 points and 13 rebounds in a 98-97 victory for the Vinton Merchants, making 15 of 23 field goals attempts and 2 of 6 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
Repeat after me: It’s only a summer league. It’s only a summer league.
But it was a pretty impressive show for a pair of kids who have been in town for about a week.
“They’re both great guys, a lot of fun to be with and they’re both super smart,’’ said Tyler Cook, who lit up the PTL last summer then went out and made the All-Big Ten freshman team last winter.
“They can score from anywhere on the floor, they’re unselfish, they run the floor. They’ve got college bodies already. I think their transition process will be a lot easier than ours was because of how prepared they already are.’’
Garza just graduated from the Maret School in Washington, D.C., last Monday and hopped on a plane later that day, arriving in Iowa City at about midnight and diving into summer classes at Iowa the following morning.
“It’s all coming at me kind of quick but I was ready for that,’’ he said. “I’m just going to work as hard as I can to get ready.’’
Nunge, who attended high school in Newburgh, Indiana, has been on campus only slightly longer. It helps that he lived in Iowa City as a kid.
“It feels like home,’’ Nunge said. “I know the area pretty well and I’m used to it.’’
In their first week on campus, they not only have been working out with their new teammates but also have had ample opportunities to go up against former Iowa stars such as Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni.
Garza said it already has helped him up his game.
“Everyone is pushing each other to get better,’’ he said. “The mindset of this team is unlike anything I’ve ever been around. It’s just awesome. I just want to soak up as much as I can.’’
Although Garza and Nunge both are 6-10 and very skilled for players that size, they’re not exactly the same kind of player.
Garza has a little more bulk and is more of a traditional back-to-basket center. Nunge handles the ball like a much smaller man and mentioned in conversations with reporters following the game that he feels capable of playing the shooting guard position.
But both can shoot from the outside, both can run, both will block their share of shots and both appear to have very good hands.
They seemed to really enjoy going up against one another on Day 1 of the PTL.
“It was really fun,’’ Nunge said. “I’m rooming with him and I like him a lot. He’s a great player. He’s really strong and physical. I’m really looking forward to these next four years with him.’’
For the immediate future, the two youngsters will have their hands full fitting into an already crowded frontcourt with Baer, Cook, Cordell Pemsl, Ryan Kriener, Ahmad Wagner and Dom Uhl.
But the returning players already can tell they’re going to have their hands full keeping the kids off the court.
“What I’ve really been impressed with this first week is how hard they play,’’ Baer said. “They both go out there and get offensive rebounds and dunk, and they both have a similar motor. When you have young guys who have a motor like that, you can do a lot with them.’’