When I heard Karnowski would undergo back surgery, I resigned myself to the fact I’d never see him in a Gonzaga uniform again. Actually, I was somewhat surprised to see him return this season. Internet rumors had him being offered a high six figure contract to play professionally in his native Poland. Even if he didn’t go the European route, I thought he’d be undrafted but an NBA team would sign him. He plays his best games against big, true centers and I thought his game is well suited to the wide-open NBA style of play with his superior passing and great post moves. Nope, big Shem decided to stay. He returned for his senior season in great shape, knowing the team’s potential and that another successful campaign could raise his stock with NBA scouts. Now we’ll never find out if he could have been a first round pick …..or will we? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but the more I thought about it the more reasons (rationalizations?) I could see for a possible medical redshirt and return.
Financial: Shem is a great player and you could use a lot of adjectives to describe him but fluidity and mobility don't normally top the list. Add the words back surgery it sure doesn’t help. Shem is going to have to prove he can play at the same or better level to retain or increase his value. The NBA minimum salary is about $500,000 a year. A first round draft pick’s contract is guaranteed for two years making two to ten times that figure. Get drafted in the middle of the first round and you could make enough guaranteed money in two years to equal what you’d make playing ten in Europe. Even if he got cut after two years, Shem could still go to Europe and play another dozen years if he stays healthy. Shem could have gone the Marcin Gorat route at 17, play in Europe, dominate and hope to get drafted. He obviously didn’t preferring to work on his game and body to maximize his stateside exposure before turning pro. He spent 4 years at Gonzaga to prove he could play against the best players in America and make it to the NBA. He may need another year to prove he still can.
Physical: On the last Mark Few Show, Few mentioned Ronny Turiaf returning to Spokane and working out at Gonzaga to get back into basketball shape after his heart surgery. Not a bad idea is it Shem? Depending on the type of surgery, he could be down for a couple of weeks to several months. Considering Few referred to him as “the poster boy for the medical redshirt”, the several months part seems more likely. Missing an entire season of basketball will erode his skills, muscles will atrophy and the big guy could gain weight. What better place to get back into shape than the state of the art training facilities, world class strength coach and training table diet Gonzaga has to offer. It wouldn’t cost him or his family a dime and he’d also be able to get a graduate degree. A graduate degree may not sound like much of an incentive for a guy with pro basketball dreams and skills, but it would sure come in handy if you get injured again while playing in Europe with a no play/no pay contract.
Medical: Again, without knowing the extent of the injury or the surgery, there’s no way of telling how much follow-up medical treatment will be required. At a minimum, there would have to be follow-up doctor visits, X-rays, physical therapy and other rehab. I would also speculate Gonzaga’s insurance would allow him to see specialists anywhere in the country if needed. As long as Karnowski is a student, Gonzaga picks up the tab. Once an injured athlete graduates, the university stops paying the medical bills. Turiaf was lucky, the Lakers picked up his extensive medical bills and covered his expenses during rehabilitation. I don’t think Shem would have that option if he still needs treatment after 1 June. I don’t know anything about the National Health in Poland, maybe Karno could return home and receive world class care if still required. I do know if he medically redshirts he will.
Yeah I know, wishful thinking and the big guy is probably gone, but hopefully there was bit of logic behind my madness. Shem and whoever advises him decided it would be in his best interest to return for his senior season. That may still be the case big guy, you have the opportunity to hit the reset button and try it again. Stay a while, get back into shape then tear it up next season. Sure your team will be losing Wiltjer and the Dragon, but with NWG, JWIII and all the incoming talent things could possibly be even better. If you do decide to stay, any chance of convincing Sabonis it would be in his best interest to hang around too?