Israeli star Lior Garzon leads Villanova while looking at WNBA career ahead

Mar 8, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Lior Garzon, a Ra’anana native, is in the midst of a breakout season playing Division 1 (D1) college basketball at Villanova University. She is currently in her sophomore year studying political science. From helping ‘Nova end UCONN’s 145 game home winning streak to leading the squad to the Big East Final and the NCAA Women’s Tourney coming up next week, Garzon also captured the Big East’s Most Improved Player award.

“It’s very challenging to be in college, but at the same time I think it is a great experience,” Garzon noted in an exclusive interview with The Sports Rabbi website. In addition, she said that college has helped her to find the balance between friends, athletics, and academics.

Playing college basketball in the United States wasn’t even originally on her agenda, “I wanted to take my basketball to another level, so I thought about my options. My first option was to go to Europe; it was close to home and more professional, but I thought I might need more time to work on my skills and get more experience.” Garzon said that an older Israeli friend, who had gone abroad to the States to play college basketball in Maine, told her that choosing to play for a D1 team would be a great opportunity to improve and would provide Garzon with many benefits.

Lior Garzon – Photo Credit: FIBA

Living in the States and playing college basketball have exposed Garzon not only to changes in her personal life, but also, to a different playing style. “It is so different here,” Garzon commented. “In Israel, I obviously have my friends and family closer to me, but basketball-wise, I think it is also very different. In Israel the playing is more aggressive and professional, and here it is more about learning the game, and to be better as a personal basketball player. I think in college you have more freedom to do what you want.” Garzon described the style of play in Israel as fast and aggressive, whereas in college, “it is all about efficiency.”

Last season, during Garzon’s freshman year, she started only one game, averaging just over 8 points per game. This season, she has started every single game, proving herself to be a reliable and productive forward. She has averaged close to 14 points per game, while averaging over 30 minutes of playing time this season. Garzon attributed her improvement and additional playing time to the extra work she put in during the offseason.

“I think my coach believes in me more now, I am getting more minutes so I can produce more.”

Lior Garzon – Photo Credit: FIBA

Last month, on February 10th, Villanova snapped University of Connecticut’s 145 regular season conference game win streak, which had dated back to 2013. UConn hadn’t lost a game in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in seven seasons. The win was historic for Villanova, and was also a prime example of Garzon’s blossoming play. She recorded 19 points, four rebounds and two assists.

“It was crazy, we didn’t even believe it until the next morning. We woke up and were like ‘did that really happen?’ The impossible became possible. We played great and It was a good experience, especially being there at UConn with the crowd. It was really crazy.”

Lior Garzon – Photo Credit: FIBA

Going into the game against UConn, Garzon said that the preparation was slightly different, “Obviously it’s UConn, so you always prepare differently for UConn. The team worked a lot on our mentality stuff, we know how to play basketball, we were coming off of eight straight wins, so we knew our offense would be there. But we worked on defense and set specific goals to help us win that game.”

Going into a game with the odds stacked against you is never a great feeling, however, Garzon said that they totally believed they could do it. “The atmosphere in the locker room and even a couple of days beforehand we knew we could do it. We just needed to believe we could do it, fight, and never give up no matter what is going on on the court. We weren’t scared, and we just showed up.”

Lior Garzon – Photo Credit: FIBA

Although Garzon is becoming one of Villanova’s stars, her goals don’t end with college basketball she determinedly said, “my main goal is the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), get to the draft and play a good amount in the WNBA. And obviously go to Europe and play on good teams; try to win a championship or something.”

She ended by noting, “I think I will finish my career in Israel, but I really don’t know what will happen, but my immediate goal now is to get to the WNBA.” Hopefully, Garzon will continue to grow and dominate in D1 basketball, make her mark in the WNBA, and reach all of her other professional goals.

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