I’m not going to weigh in on what makes a good “Player of the Year” or POTY candidate.
That’s a debate that will be forever ongoing and could include any number of things.
Except for this comment: I know a good POTY when I see him (or her) or read about that player.
Right now, all the debate is over whether Lucas Garza, the center for the University of Iowa’s men’s basketball team, deserves to be the POTY.
Some say a few other candidates are worthy, and they probably are. But when you have a guy step up and carry the load that would have been divided by guys like Patrick McCaffrey and Jordan Bohannon, that’s already awsome in and of itself.
It’s his leadership that goes beyond his 23.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds and 11 straight 20-point games in Big Ten Conference games.
A couple of weeks ago, the sports website 247 Sports talked about Garza’s game against Minnesota, which ended with an Iowa victory. Despite being triple-teamed, the Hawkeye senior somehow came away with 24 points on 11-for-21 shooting, eight rebounds, and broke a screen to connect on a key three-point shot.
“Those are the type of winning plays that the 6-foot-11 big man has made all season and has become known for,” wrote 247’s David Eickholt. “Just a minute prior to that make, Garza missed a three-pointer from the same spot. Fox Sports color analyst Tim Miles said ‘I would have bet anything that (Garza’s) shot was going to go in.’”
Speaking of which, over the next couple of weeks, we members of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association – that group tasked with selecting all-state teams for football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, and baseball – will be in addition to choosing all-state teams selecting a Mr. Iowa Basketball and Miss Iowa Basketball for the year.
There was some argument that last year’s Mr. Iowa Basketball should have gone to, including DJ Carton, the Bettendorf native who went on to Ohio State. (FWIW: Carton was a budding prospect and showing great promise before he decided to take a leave of absence for personal reasons. Wishing him the best.)
In the end, we IPSWA voters decided to split the honor. A guy made an argument that the obvious choice – North Linn’s Jake Hilmer – didn’t play a tough schedule, despite being one of the most dominant basketball players in any class. (North Linn is Class 2A, and in my opinion could beat a lot of very good Class 3A and 4A teams.) A number of us disagreed, saying that a good basketball player is a good basketball player.
Nonetheless, Carton’s statistics were also strong and very comparable to Hilmer’s, and so it was that the honor was split.
Sometimes, that’s what you have to do. It’s not giving a trophy to everyone, it’s acknowledging that two great players are equally worthy and deserving of a great honor and need to be recognized as such.
I’m looking forward to seeing who this year’s full list of nominees are, and doing the voting. I did submit several names of area athletes from several of the area schools, each of them very all-state worthy in my opinion. We’ll see if the rest of the IPSWA voters agree.
But going back to Lucas Garza and that “co-Mr. Iowa Basketball” honor there was last year for a moment, it might not be that bad of an idea to consider “co-player” of the year honor at the collegiate level, especially if there are other nominees who are equally as deserving.
But for mental toughness, will to win and ability to take over a game ... I think Garza is the best of the bunch.
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Far as state girls’ basketball goes, the conference of the year is the Hawkeye Ten Conference.
As I type this, three teams are still in contention, after Red Oak fell in its quarterfinal game Monday afternoon to North Polk. In Class 4A, Council Bluffs Lewis Central and Glenwood were in the bottom half of the bracket, while Council Bluffs St. Albert was the Class 1A representative.
I’m still rooting for North Scott to win the Class 4A title; yes, you’ve got to go with the old school and I always will, and their game Thursday afternoon vs. the Class 3A defending champion, Center Point-Urbana, should be outstanding.
Glenwood – the team a year ago I picked to be in this year’s state title game – will present a challenge with their big three: junior Ellie Scarboroguh, sophmore Madison Camden and freshman Jenna Hopp. Regarless of how they finish this year’s tournament, they appear to be primed for a dominant next few years.
But both Gilbert and Ballard, the foes of Glenwood and Lewis Central, respectively, are well-tested too.
Six years ago, when Harlan won the state title in Class 4A (and North Scott was in the field), I thought to myself, “Self, this is the most competitive class of the five classes at state.”
For the most part, this year’s Class 4A field appears to be that same way.