In early May, Coach Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs received terrific news when they landed the much-sought-after recruit in Poland's 7-footer Przemek Karnowski for the upcoming 2012-2013 season.
For the Zags, Karnowski may be the biggest and most hyped recruit to arrive in Spokane because Few won him over the likes of California and Duke. Not to mention that he’s been described as a “McDonald’s All-American-type recruit” by DraftExpress and that ESPN’s European basketball expert Fran Fraschilla considers him a “huge get.”
With the loss of three-year starting center Robert Sacre, the Bulldogs needed a replacement that could make an immediate impact as they look to make another push for their first Final Four appearance. They may have found that in Karnowski.
What this 7-footer, referred to as the “Big Pole,” brings to the court is his ability to open the floor offensively with his shooting range. He can consistently hit from 18 feet and possesses the ability to pound it inside with his post-moves. He’s even developed a great pick-and-roll game in the last year after losing weight to improve his footwork speed.
The predominately left-handed shooter also passes well for a big man, a must-have talent in the European game, which will be a big help when it comes to defending double teams. He can pass it out to his sharp-shooting teammates in sophomore guards Gary Bell Jr. and reigning WCC Freshman of the Year Kevin Pangos.
Karnowski gives Gonzaga depth in the frontcourt, something they lacked after the loss of not only Sacre but also Ryan Spangler, who transferred after the season, along with swingman Mathis Monninghoff and guard Mathis Keita.
With the return of senior Elias Harris (who will be looking to have his best season in order to improve his draft stock), junior Sam Dower (who may have a breakout year, according to ESPN) and junior Kelly Olynyk (who redshirted last season), the Zags will have one of the top 10 most talented frontcourts in all of college basketball.
Defensively, Karnowski may struggle when it comes to faster guards and forwards because he lacks explosiveness and lateral speed, but his NBA-ready size will help cover those weaknesses. He will also want to improve his rebounding—he averaged only 4.4 rebounds per game last year while playing 26 minutes per game—and his free-throw shooting (a horrendous 54 percent last year) as he will most likely be sent to the free-throw line often because of his size and movement.
Now that Gonzaga landed Karnowski, Few and his top assistant Tommy Lloyd, a master recruiter of overseas players, add another European star to the likes of Ronny Turiaf and Harris.
Will the 2012-2013 season be the year Gonzaga finally returns to the Elite Eight or possibly the Final Four? That may be too early to tell, but one thing’s for certain: The “Big Pole” on campus will bring them one step closer.