Losing your top two scorers, rebounders and dominant front court presences like the Gonzaga Bulldogs did after last season is usually a recipe for a letdown the following season. But despite losing both Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris to the NBA, Gonzaga finds itself ranked No. 15 in the preseason AP poll and are heavily favored to win the WCC again this season. Part of the reason is dynamic offensive trio on the perimeter but if Mark Few hopes to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, center Przemek Karnowski will need to play a major role.
As a freshman last season, the 7-foot-1 Polish post player logged just 10.7 minutes per game coming off the bench as part of the front court rotation. He averaged about four shots per game and finished the year averaging 5.4 points per game, 2.6 rebounds and 0.3 blocks. This year, Karnowski is going to be relied on more heavily as the starting center to log serious minutes each game and be a major presence on the low block. That will mean refining an offensive game that looked awkward at times last season and attacking the boards with authority.
Karnowski isn’t going to be expected to make up the 32 points per game lost with Olynyk and Harris out of the lineup all by himself as the slack will be spread around to the backcourt trio of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Providence transfer Gerald Coleman as well as senior big man Sam Dower at power forward. But the big sophomore can’t be just a warm body taking up a lot of space out there either. If Karnowski can develop some offensive game this season, the entire offense will open up as defenses are forced to crash down on the 7-footer in the post.
That puts the pressure squarely on the broad shoulders of Karnowski to step up as a legitimate presence down low. If he becomes the strong presence in the front court that Few believes he can be, the Bulldogs will once again be one of the most complete teams in the WCC and will roll their way into March Madness.