Przemek Karnowski (via FIBA.com)At a time when elite recruits make their college choice at news conferences with a row of hats in front of them and their family at their side, one of the top available prospects in the Class of 2012 chose a school with considerably less fanfare.
Karnowski's subdued announcement didn't draw the attention those of Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad or Tony Parker did last month, but the few who have seen him play insist he'll make a considerable impact as soon as next season at Gonzaga.
Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress tweeted that Karnowski is a "McDonald's All-American-type recruit" who is more ready to contribute immediately than elite future Pittsburgh big man Steven Adams. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla called Karnowski a "huge get" for the Zags and compared him with Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. And in an email to Yahoo! Sports, Christophe Ney of EuropeanProspects.com said Karnowski will fit in well with returning Gonzaga stars Kevin Pangos and Elias Harris.
"Karnowski is a technically skilled and physical left-handed big," Ney said. "A real low post player, using a lot of fakes and moves. Mainly using his left hand to start his moves, often with a dribble. Likes to hit the turnaround jump shot. Good passer, sometimes a bit too much. Not very athletic but improving in terms of explosiveness.
"He should become a great target for Pangos drives but also create spaces with his shooting capabilities around the key for Harris."
European players sometimes can be overhyped before they arrive in the U.S. because fewer scouts and analysts get to evaluate them, but there's reason to believe Karnowski may be an impact player for Gonzaga.
Karnowski, 19, averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 boards for Poland in nine games at the U-19 World Championships last summer in Latvia, scoring 29 against Croatia in the tournament's seventh-place game. The two schools he visited last week were Gonzaga and Cal, but the likes of Duke, Kansas, Marquette and others each made failed late pushes to land him this spring.
What helped Gonzaga get Karnowski is the presence of Zags assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, one of the best European recruiters in all of college basketball. Lloyd, who previously plucked Harris from Germany, learned about Karnowski years ago and built a rapport with him long before most other staffs even knew who he was.
Gonzaga's need for Karnowski is obvious with starting center Robert Sacre graduating this spring. Harris, Sam Dower and Kelly Olynyk give the Zags versatility and experience in the paint, but Karnowski's size and mammoth frame is something the Zags would not be able to duplicate.
Ney believes Karnowski will have little trouble adjusting to the college level after playing all of this past season in Poland's top league alongside players who are older and stronger than him.
"He has huge international experience already," Ney said. "This is a huge advantage that he has."