Senior center, Przemek Karnowski, was kind enough to give me some of his time to answer a few questions while in Chicago for the Midwest Regional. I can't say enough about how gracious and accommodating Przemek has been this week. He's definitely one of the class acts in all of sports. I intentionally avoided asking him what his plans are for next season since I believe he'll announce that when he's ready; but, I wish him the best of luck, whether he's back at Gonzaga next season, or has moved on to new challenges.
On to our Q&A:
After your injury, there seemed to be a transition period for the team, and I'm sure there was one for you as your role changed. But you're such a big part of the locker room, what ways have you found to help out the team since the injury?
Yes for sure, there was a transition for me. I try to help the guys as much as I can, talk to them and cheer them on. Now when I watch practices, I see some things that I have never noticed before when playing. Sometimes JP asks me "what do you see there P?" And I give him my feedback, I never try to be negative, I try to help them in a good way and encourage them.
I also give the coaches some ideas. Some of them are better than others, and at the end of the day they decide what we will be doing on ball screens or what play we will run on offense. When I was hurt and we were preparing to play Santa Clara, Tommy asked me to do scouting on them, when I sent it to him he asked me, "did you steal my notes? That's exactly what I have written down." I thought it was a funny situation, too bad I couldn't watch the guys play against them because at that time I was having surgery.
You looked to be moving pretty well today (Thursday's shootaround), which is awesome! How's the rehab process going? What are you working on now and what's the timeline to get back to full basketball activity?
The rehab is going really well. I'm able to do more and more. I try to pace myself and take it one step at the time. I don't want to rush things, I had a huge surgery and I believe only the best rehab will help me in the long run. I do lots of balance, core and back work. I started pool therapy a couple of weeks ago and that's going really good for me. To be honest, I didn't know pool workouts could be that hard!
You've been on some of the best Gonzaga teams in school history, and as a result, have played in some really big games. Is there a particular game or maybe individual matchup that stands out to you?
I will for sure remember the Sweet Sixteen game from last year against UCLA. The team was playing really well. I got the ball a couple times in the post and finished my moves or assisted on other possessions, and that win gave us the second Elite Eight appearance in school history.
You played with and against some great players last summer during EuroBasket. What was that experience like?
Playing with my senior national team is a great experience. I had a chance to be on the roster at the 2013 European Championships in Slovenia, as well as the 2015 European championships in France. Playing against big guys like Marc or Pau Gasol is great preparation for the next level. Also, having a great mentor and a friend like Marcin Gortat is a great thing, he always helped me whenever I needed it during practices.
Imagine you're an NBA GM, and were told you had to pick one Gonzaga player from the Mark Few era to start a team with, who are you taking?
It's hard to say, I hadn't seen lots of NCAA games until 2010-2011. I have to go with people from my era, and I think I will go with Kevin (Pangos). He is just a great person, great leader and a great player. Always confident, but not cocky, and always hard working.
Who wins a game of 21 between Mark Few, Tommy Lloyd, and Brian Michaelson? Brian was whipping some behind the back passes today during shootaround, so he looks like he could still ball.
I think he learned those from me because I didn't see him doing that my freshman year! It is hard to say who wins, but I have to go with Tommy, he's the one I've known for the longest time.
Who's the funniest guy on the team? And who's the guy that thinks he's hilarious but no one else thinks so, there's always one.
Honestly, this group of guys is so close with each other that everyone feels comfortable joking around. We make fun of each other very often, but it is never something that people should take personally. Everyone is funny in their own way.
Chicago has a strong Polish and Lithuanian presence. Have you and Domas made any arrangements to get a taste of home while you're here?
I was trying to go to a Polish restaurant to eat some Polish food, but it is a business trip, and so far I haven't had lots of free time. I will try to make a trip down to the Polish neighborhood to eat some pierogi.
This team dresses really well. Impeccably, I might even say, which is the highest praise I give. Who's the best dressed guy on the team? And the worst?
Thank you, I believe everyone tries to dress nice in their own way. For me personally, I feel the pain of Domas, Ryan, and Wiltj, you know, we're big guys and most companies don't make clothes in our sizes so we have to look a long time to find something that fits us, is nice and we actually like. There is not a worst dressed person on the team, everyone does it his own way, some people care about it more, some less.
Last one, what's been your greatest experience/memory as a Zag so far?
From a basketball standpoint, it is for sure last season, going to an Elite Eight was just a great experience. From my personal standpoint, I believe it is experiencing college basketball. Getting a degree at the same time as playing basketball at the highest level possible, the impact you have on the community and the school. It is just a fantastic experience in general.