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Iowa’s freshman center was emotional after a 77-71 loss to Michigan. Chad Leistikow/The Register

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa men’s basketball team started practice Monday without starting center Luka Garza, but he is able to ride an exercise bike and even put up some close-range shots.

No dunking yet, though, joked Garza’s father, Frank.

Luka Garza is 3 ½ weeks removed from surgery to remove a cyst from his abdomen. Frank Garza told the Register on Tuesday that his son will undergo a medical test in two weeks that will give a clearer indication of how much time he will miss while recuperating. The plan is for Garza, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, to return to the team sometime this winter. The Hawkeyes open the season Nov. 8 vs. Missouri-Kansas City.

“We’re counting on him being back for sure. We just don’t know when,” Frank Garza said. “He wants to be there for the first game. That’s my son, though. That’s his mindset.”

Garza averaged 12.1 points per game last season to rank third for the Hawkeyes. He led the team in blocked shots (32) and was second in rebounding (6.4 per game).

Frank Garza said his son is leaning on one of the family’s favorite quotes, from legendary basketball coach John Wooden: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

For Luka, that means catching up on his homework and doing light exercise while awaiting the green light to rejoin his teammates. Having to watch practice was difficult, Frank Garza said.

“He was torn up that he couldn’t be out there,” Frank Garza said of his son. “But I think the approach is kind of like what happened with Connor (McCaffery) last year: ‘Let’s work on the basketball IQ.’ Get with the coaches and say, ‘Hey, what are we trying to do here? What’s going on from a coaching standpoint?’ So he gets some value out of what he’s watching as opposed to just watching it without purpose.”

Connor McCaffery is a Hawkeye point guard who missed time last season after an injury and then a bout with mononucleosis.

“He’s a champion and he’s surrounded by a lot of good people and great teammates,” Frank Garza said of Luka. “He’s starting to get back to normal. He’s got another (medical) test that will tell us what the future looks like. And then we’ll figure out what his treatment plan will be.”

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