There probably hasn't been a bigger Gonzaga related story, both in terms of size and impact, than Przemek Karnowski's commitment. The highly-sought after Polish center had been on the radar for Gonzaga for the past two years, but it wasn't until May that he decided to officially commit to GU. With any European recruit, there is a big effort needed by the coaching staff to sell them on Spokane and the adjustments they will have to make in order to play Division I basketball.
In order to learn more about what exactly led to Karnowski pledging his future to Mark Few and his staff, we caught up with Rafal Juc, an International Scout for Eurohopes.com (Be sure to follow Rafal On Twitter). We want to thank Rafal for taking the time to answer our questions and providing such great insight on the future Zag.
In the first part of our story on Karnwoski, Juc explains what stood out for Karnowski on his visit to Spokane and addresses the story behind the interest from Duke and Kansas:
TSSF: It sounds like one of the keys for Przemek committing to Gonzaga was his official visit to the school. What were some of the things that stood out for Karnowski on his visit to Spokane?
Rafal Juc: Obviously the visit to Spokane was a really important aspect of Karnowski's recruiting process. However I would not overestimate its importance. From the beginning, Gonzaga was the front-runner in race for Karnowski and it seems that he was determined to join the Bulldogs even before his visit to the States. I must admit that Gonzaga, and especially coach Tommy Lloyd, built the best relationship with Karnowski. His 5 or 6 trips to Poland certainly had a huge impact. Too be honest, the original plan for Karnowski did not include any visits to the States, because April and May were extremely busy times for him. Karnowski was not only playing the final round of 2011/12 season, but he also was preparing for his final exams.
From what I know, the idea of him visiting Spokane was proposed to Karnowski only when Lloyd and Few met with him in Poland on April 18th. At first his only visit was to Spokane, but then decided to just check his second option, which was California. The Golden Bears were also really recruiting him hard.
I met with Przemek just after his return from the trip and he was impressed by what he saw in Spokane. One of the keys in this process was his relationship with Kevin Pangos, who has been his close friend since they met during the U-17 World Championships in 2010. I was told that the whole team showed love to Karnowski and he was also very impressed by the facilities on the visit.
TSSF: There was some speculation that Karnowski might also visit Duke and Kansas while he was in the States. What happened with those visits and why did he ultimately end up deciding to only visit Gonzaga and Cal?
Rafal Juc: The answer is easy: Gonzaga and California were the two schools that had been recruiting Karnowski since he decided in 2010 that he was going to play NCAA basketball. While Tommy Lloyd from Gonzaga and John Montgomery from California were making their visits to Poland, nobody from Kansas or Duke even knew who he was.
For Przemek, there was no way he could join a program which had only known about him for two weeks and then decided to offer him a scholarship. It was also important for Karnowski to go to a school where he would be able to play early on and had a spot for him.