Luka Garza of Iowa and Paige Bueckers of UConn were named the 2021 Naismith men's and women's players of the year Saturday, the top award in college basketball.
Bueckers is the first freshman in the 39-year history of the women's award to take the honor. She averaged 20.1 points, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds this season. She became the first UConn player ever to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games and also set the school record for points in her NCAA debut when she had 24 in the opener against High Point.
“I feel incredibly blessed to receive the Naismith Trophy. It was an honor to receive the high school award last season, and truly, it’s surreal to receive the collegiate award this year,” Beuckers said in a statement “My teammates and coaches are the reason I had any individual success this year, so thank you to them for being by my side all season."
Bueckers helped lead the Huskies to their 13th consecutive Final Four, where they fell to Arizona Friday night.
Garza, a senior, 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.
“Winning an award in Naismith’s name is an honor my family and I will always treasure. Naismith changed my life, and so many others, by creating the game that so many love,” Garza said in a statement. “This is not an individual honor but a team award, and I am so proud to be able to bring this award home to Iowa City."
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. The native of Washington, D.C., finished as the career scoring leader (2,306) at Iowa, which will retire his No. 55 jersey.
Garza and Bueckers also won the AP player of the year awards this week.