Photo courtesy of K&M Ziolkowscy/

Gonzaga fans better freshen up on their Polish pronunciation as they look forward to the 2012-13 season, when Poland 7-footer Przemyslaw Karnowski arrives in Spokane for his freshman season.

Karnowski is pretty easy but then there is his first name. The 18-year-old Bydgoszcz native tried to pronounce it to heinnews recently and we had to ask some Polish colleagues for the phonetics on it. And this is what they came up with: Pshe-mi-swaaav.

The next question for the big man was easy. “What will the guys at Gonzaga call you?” Karnowski’s answer: “They all call me Big P.”

Yeah that works.

Well, thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Gonzaga coaching staff – especially assistant coach Tommy Lloyd – Zags fans will even get the chance to offer up their best pronunciation attempts.

Karnowski toured the U.S. in April and visited or spoke to California, Duke, Kansas and Ohio State among others. But Big P’s message to those schools was clear: “They asked me if I wanted to come. I told them: ‘You wrote me two weeks ago, and I’ve been in touch with the coaches at Gonzaga for two years.’ It was the main reason.”

Lloyd has been a master in overseas recruiting, bringing in Frenchmen Ronny Turiaf and Mathis Keita and Germans Elias Harris and Mathis Mönninghoff.

Another big reason was because Karnowski figured he would step right into the line-up with last season’s starting center Robert Sacre departing and getting drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It was the best option for me because I could play there,” said Karnowski.

Karnowski pretty much had his choice of school and college coaches recognized that he wasn’t just a big guy to go along with the motto ‘You can’t teach size’. But he is also technically skilled and physical left-handed center who flashes a fine passing ability with his fine low post game.

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Karnowski himself – a very quiet, reserved individual despite his physical stature – is very low key on his expectations. That started with the announcement on May 2 of his college choice on his Twitter feed @PKarnowski: “In the next season I will play in Zags uni!”

When asked what he wants to accomplish with Gonzaga, Big P said: “I know my opponents will be stronger. But I just want to play the best I can. The main goal is to help my team to get better and help my teammates to get better. The main goal for me is to lose weight.”

He repeated his commitment to work on his body, adding: “I have to lose weight and be quicker, faster and stronger. But I think that the United States and Gonzaga are the best option for me to get better.”

Karnowski also will come to Spokane with a wealth of experience.

He played during the 2011-12 season with top flight professional Polish team Siarka Jezioro Tranobrzeg and averaged more than 10 points, nearly 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocks.

Despite not turning 19 years old until November 8, he has already played at five European youth championships (Under-16 in 2008 and 2009, Under-18 in 2010 and 2011, and Under-20 in 2012) as well as two world  youth championships (Under-17 in 2010 and Under-19 in 2011).

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Actually the 2010 Under-17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany ended up helping Karnowski decide on Gonzaga.

Poland took the silver medal and lost in the final to a USA team that included 2012 NBA first rounders Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Anthony Wroten and Marquis Teague not to mention 2013 projected NBA lottery pick James McAdoo and first rounder Adonis Thomas.

Joining Karnowski, his Polish teammate Mateusz Ponitka, Beal and McAdoo in the U17 Worlds All-Tournament Team was Kevin Pangos from the bronze medal-winning Canada team.

Pangos and Karnowski then hooked up again at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit and kind of built up a friendship, which eventually didn’t hurt in Gonzaga’s recruiting of the center to the Northwest.

“I was in touch with Kevin. He told me everything that’s good and not good. And I think he will be my roommate. It should work,” said Karnowski.

“I met all the players when I was there (for his campus visit). It was such a nice group to practice with but also off the court to be friends.”

Karnowski will arrive in Spokane not only with a good chance for lots of minutes and a motivation to work on his body, but he also will come armed with plenty of advice and tricks of the trade from an NBA center.

Polish 7-foot center Przemyslaw Karnowski decides to attend Gonzaga University in the U.S. – photo from

After playing at the Under-20 European Championship Division B from July 12-22 in Bulgaria, Karnowski started working out with Poland’s senior national team for the first time. And that meant trying to hold his own against Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat.

“Gortat is a great player, and I got to battle with him in practice,” Karnowski told heinnews at an international warm-up tournament prior to Poland’s qualification campaign for the 2013 European Championship.

“It’s so hard playing against him (Gortat). He’s stronger, faster, quicker than me. I want to give my best against him. He’s a good NBA center. He’s given me so much.”

When asked how Gortat helps him most, Karnowski says: “Lower legs and better foot work.”

While Karnowski works on his foot work and body, Zags can start working on their Polish.




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