The 2020-2021 NCAA college basketball season has certainly been a challenging one. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to make it’s presence felt in the sports world. College basketball has been no exception. Games have either been postponed or canceled. While individual players, and even entire teams have opted out of this season. But everyone else has pushed forward and made the most of this trying season.
Among those who braved the pandemic are some Latinx basketball players who’ve been lighting up the box scores and highlight reels. It’s no secret that the Latino population continues to grow within every level of the sport. At ‘LLERO we’ve traditionally shined a light on the up and coming Latinx ball players in the game. With the regular season winding down, here are six Latinx basketball players who look to lead their teams into the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.
Luka Garza, Center at Iowa
Imaging having a player who’s a dominant center in the paint, but also has the occasional shooting ability of a guard. That’s exactly what the Hawkeyes have in Garza, who comes from a family full of basketball players. Garza is the nations third-leading scorer (24.3 ppg), he’s sixth in the Big Ten Conference in both rebounding (8.3 rpg), and field goal percentage (.548). He’s also the league’s fourth-leading shot blocker (1.5 bpg). His efforts are a prime reason why Iowa is among the Big Ten’s top five teams this season. Most teams don’t have anyone big enough or strong enough to defend him one-on-one. Garza is projected to be a top-ten pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Dawson Garcia, Power Forward, Marquette
Most freshman have to wait their turn to get on the collegiate hardwood. Dawson Garcia is a major exception. As part of the starting lineup, standing 6-11 at 230 lbs. he leads the Golden Eagles in scoring (13.3 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg), and is the teams third-leading shot blocker (0.5 bpg). Much like Garza, Garcia can also shoot the ball. Dawson is Marquette’s third-leading free throw shooter (78.6 percent), field goal shooter (48.7 percent), and three-point shooter (37.5 percent). The Eagles will need a strong run in the Big East Tournament in order to make this year’s NCAA Tournament. But the good thing is Garcia is laying the foundation for this team’s future.
Oscar da Silva, Power Forward, Stanford
This Brazilian big man has pushed the Cardinals to be the sixth-best team in the Pac-12 conference this season. He’s the conference’s second-leading scorer (18.8 ppg), sixth-leading rebounder (6.8 rpg) and eighth-leading shot blocker (1.4 bpg). At 6’9″ and 203 lbs. the Senior gives this team an imposing force in the paint that reminds me of the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin, Stanford alums). But Silva isn’t the only Latino making his presence felt on the west coast.
Chris Duarte, Shooting Guard, Oregon
Duarte looks to be the latest in a long line of NBA prospects from the Dominican Republic. The Puerto Plata native’s efficient shooting has played a big role for this Ducks team that’s currently second in the Pac-12 standings. This year’s squad has a very good shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Duarte is fourth in the conference in scoring (17.2 ppg), 10th in the league in field goal percentage (.529), and fifth in three-point shooting percentage (.425). Duarte and da Silva have made the Pac-12 fun to watch this year.
Marcus Santos-Silva, Power Forward, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders play in very top-heavy Big 12 Conference this season. They are one of seven teams who have won 14 or more games. Santos-Silva has done his part to keep his team in the race. He is the teams fifth-leading scorer (8.4 ppg), their top rebounder (6.5 rpg), their leading shot blocker (1.1 bpg). Santos-Silva is also just one of just six Red Raider players to average 20 or more minutes per game (23.6). Texas Tech will have to navigate through an ultra-competitive Big 12 Conference Tournament to get the postseason this year. But Santos-Silva is ready for his chance to shine.
Jayden Martinez, Shooting Forward, New Hampshire
Rounding out the group of Latinx basketball players is Jayden Martinez. A native of Texas, Martinez took his talents east and the Wildcats are reaping the benefits. This Junior averages of 13 points and eight rebounds per game. Stats that have helped lead the Wildcats to the quarterfinals of the America East Conference Tournament this season. The Wildcats must now wait to find out if they’ll get into the NCAA Tournament. But rest assured that Martinez and company will be ready the next time they take the court.