The first thing you notice when Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski is on the floor is he looks different than the other players. Karnowski is a mountain of a man that plays in the low post. His signature beard draws immediate attention to No. 24.
Karnowski is a throwback in an era where big men tend to hang out on the perimeter. Karnowski is listed at 7’1″ and 300 pounds meaning he is typically the biggest player on the court.
Karnowski is originally from Poland but as a fifth-year senior has called Spokane home for several years. International scout Rafal Juc spoke with SB Nation about why Karnowski decided to make the move to Gonzaga.
Obviously the visit to Spokane was a really important aspect of Karnowski’s recruiting process. However I would not overestimate its importance. From the beginning, Gonzaga was the front-runner in race for Karnowski and it seems that he was determined to join the Bulldogs even before his visit to the States. I must admit that Gonzaga, and especially [assistant] coach Tommy Lloyd, built the best relationship with Karnowski. His 5 or 6 trips to Poland certainly had a huge impact.
He has become a Spokane legend even prompting a local beard contest in Karnowski’s honor.
During the 2016-17 season, Karnowski averaged 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and two assists. Karnowski is a long-shot to play in the NBA. NBA teams are looking for faster big men who can shoot from the outside. His teammate, Zach Collins, fits the mold of the kind of big man the NBA covets.
Karnwoski would have had a clearly defined role in the old NBA where back-to-the-basket big men were prevalent. If the NBA Draft does not work out for Karnowski, he has prepared himself for life after basketball whenever he decides to step away from the court.
Karnowski has a bachelor’s degree in sports management and is working towards a master’s in business administration.
His basketball career was in serious question after battling a staph infection. According to NBC Sports, Karnowski lost nearly 70 pounds after a 2015 back injury turned out to be serious.
“Nobody knew he had a staph infection inside a bulged disc. The staph ate through the disc, and it looked like [an] oyster, that’s what the disc looked like. It was totally fried. Gone. That’s what was causing the illness, the weight loss,” Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd told NBC Sports.
A puss pocket developed on his leg that required immediate surgery. The injury was serious and could threatened to cost Karnowski his leg. Additionally, the doctors inserted metal plates in his back, and Karnowski went through a rigorous rehab process.
“He went on a nine month deal of heavy antibiotics. He was literally on an IV bag for four months, carrying around an IV bag. They had a nurse come to his house and do fluid stuff with him. They were pumping antibiotics directly into him,” Lloyd told NBC Sports.
Gonzaga athletic trainer Travis Knight played a big role in his rehab and spoke with NBC Sports about his remarkable comeback.
“There really isn’t a protocol for a guy that’s 300 pounds and plays this level of basketball with metal plates in his back there wasn’t a precedence…What he went through last year, with his back injury where we didn’t think he was ever going to walk again normally and just function, I mean, getting in and out of a car and doing things like that, to now moving and playing the way he is. It’s a miracle,” Knight told NBC Sports.
Whether or not the NBA comes calling for Karnowski remains to be seen. If not, he will have plenty of offers from Europe. Regardless of his pro basketball future, Karnowski is thankful to just be playing basketball again and has been a big part of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament run.