Polish big man returning for fifth year could push Gonzaga into preseason top 15

Gonzaga got some good news on Tuesday, and it’s news that will likely push them toward the top 15 in preseason rankings.

Center Przemek Karnowski has received a medical hardship waiver and decided to attend Gonzaga for a fifth year of eligibility this upcoming season. Karnowski gets this waiver after he missed all but five games in the 2015-16 season due to a back injury.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

Karnowski has been the Zags’ starting center since 2013-14, and has averaged nine points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his tenure. However, those numbers pale in comparison to the impact that the Gonzaga coaching staff feels he has on the floor. Particularly, Karnowski is a major presence on the defensive end due to his ability to protect the rim. He’s also a superb passer who can create plays for others from both the low or high post areas. Essentially, Karnowski is the perfect role player on a college basketball team, and his inclusion in the 2016-17 roster is a massive boon to the team’s chances to repeat their success from the last two seasons.

The 7-foot Polish big man had been attempting to decide whether or not he would try to seek to turn professional. Even if the NBA was not in the cards, Karnowski would be a highly sought-after player overseas. But as noted above, Karnowski is still rehabbing his back injury, and it seems that he’s decided to return in order to play with his collegiate teammates one last time as well as improve his prospects when healthy.

His return also helps a Gonzaga front court that will depleted by departures this season, as Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis will head to the NBA Draft this He’ll join newcomers Jonathan Williams III — a transfer from Missouri — and McDonald’s All-American freshman Zach Collins in replacing the most productive duo of big men in college basketball last season. If that group can mesh well with potential WCC player of the year Nigel Williams-Goss and returning guards Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, there’s a lot to like about where the Zags are headed in 2016-17.

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Przemek Karnowski was sidelined last season.
USATSI

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