Lior Garzon has been difficult to contain to begin the season. The sophomore forward leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 16.8 points per game, and crossed the 20-point plateau in three of the last four games.
After scoring just 21 combined points in Villanova’s 0-2 start to the year, Garzon exploded for 26, 21, 22, and 11 in the four games since, her shot attempts nearly doubling during that span.
Garzon talked about how her increased shooting volume is reminiscent of how she was used offensively before joining the Wildcats.
“I know what to do and how to react to being the main scorer on a team,” she said. “That’s why I really love this team because none of us care who the main player is, every night is an opportunity for a player to be the leading scorer.”
A native of Ra’anana, Israel, Garzon has always had basketball in her blood. Her brother and father played with her from a young age, so much so that Garzon considered the game part of her life.
Garzon concluded her career in Israel with a list of honors. She won the Integration and Pedagogy Award, was a 2016-2017 National Communications Award honoree, and participated and won a third-place medal at the 2018 Under-18 Women’s European Championship (Division B) with Israel. It was clear early on that she had what it takes to play in the U.S., but it took Garzon’s creative ability to get herself recognized by Division 1 schools.
“The decision to join Villanova was a pretty quick one,” said Garzon. “I made an account on the FIBA website in 11th grade and added my tape, and it did not take long for them to reach out to me.”
Although other programs like Indiana and UConn later reached out to the 6-foot-1 forward, Garzon ultimately decided to take her talents to Philadelphia.
Her move to the States soon coincided with the spread of COVID-19, which resulted in a less than ideal freshman year for the forward.
“Being away from my family with everything going on, it was really, really hard,” said Garzon. “We all couldn’t do anything, it was basketball 24/7. So even though we got a chance to play the games and have the season, I still didn’t really know what the college experience was quite yet.”
Although off the court Garzon dealt with difficulties, on it, she fit right in as a freshman. She scored 11 points in her debut against Rider and wound up playing in all 24 games, averaging 8.8 points per game off the bench.
Although Garzon was told by head coach Denise Dillon that she would be given significant minutes to begin the season, she knew that nothing was given with this team.
“It was great to know that Coach [Dillon] believed in me,” said Garzon, “I knew I was not going to be a starter, but trying hard in practice and making the most of my time on the floor would give me more opportunities.”
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And those opportunities would arrive, as she went from playing just 17 minutes in the season-opener to playing 30 minutes in the WNIT quarterfinal against Delaware to end the season. This growing role carried into the 2021-22 campaign, where Garzon, who now averages 32 minutes per game, has become the team’s starting small forward and go-to scorer.
The role did not come as a surprise to Garzon, as the coaching staff told her ahead of the season that “this is your time”.
“They let me know before the year that I was going to be way more involved in the offense this year,” said Garzon. “I knew it was going to be more responsibility on my shoulders, and I am OK with that because I know that it is going to help the team win.”
After a 3-3 start to the year, the Wildcats will see what they are made of ahead of a three-game road trip, with two Big East opponents on the schedule this weekend. Although the conference slate does not begin in earnest until Dec. 31, the Wildcats will look to take advantage of the early opportunity to collect some conference victories. That will depend largely on the play of their breakout star.
*Editor’s Note: All stats as of Dec. 3