Before Przemek Karnowski came to Gonzaga, he was a headlining talent in a class of European teenagers moving stateside to play in the NCAA. In his first season in Spokane, the native of Poland lived up to the hype, leading scouts to gush about his combination of size, skill, smarts and potential. Now a senior, Karnowski has been steady in his three years at Gonzaga, but hasn't quite taken the leap to stardom that many expected. At 22 years old, he'll need a big senior season for his draft stock to recover.
At 7'1 and 288 pounds (and with a 7'0 wingspan), Karnowski can match up in height and size with practically any opponent in the NCAA, even if his length leaves a lot to be desired from a player at his position. He's learned to coalesce his physical acumen with mental restraint showing a significant drop-off in fouls per-40 minutes from his sophomore to junior season. On offense, he uses his strength well on the interior, shifting around in the paint with good agility for a player of his size.
Karnowski's bread and butter is his ability to score inside the post, with an overwhelming 75% of his touches coming with his back to the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology (including passes). Last season, he shot over 60% from the field in these situations, the third best rate in the NCAA among returning prospects. He's a lefty, which adds a dimension of intrigue and deception to his effectiveness on the interior. While adept with both hands, Karnowski's favorite move involves barreling into his opponent with his right shoulder and gathering for a lefty hook with his shoulder to the basket.
Outside of the paint, Karnowski has decent touch on his release but is a highly reluctant shooter, taking only ten jump shots last season per Synergy. The fact that he is a career sub-50% free throw shooter indicates that he still has quite a bit of work to do before he can be considered even a decent threat from outside of the paint.
Beyond his scoring instincts, Karnowski is a talented offensive player with impressive passing acumen. He's a gifted passer with a hunger for flash; he'll dazzle with behind the back passes and no-look drop-offs through tight spaces. Last season, Karnowski embraced a minor facilitating role and witnessed a dramatic increase in assists (from 1.2 per-40 minutes as a sophomore to 2.2 as a junior while his assist rate also nearly doubled from 6% as a sophomore to 10.9% last season.)
Often times there's more flash than substance behind Karnowski's passing and Mark Few would undoubtedly prefer him to hold back on some of his highlight attempts. He averaged 3.0 turnovers per-40 minutes last season, and coughed the ball up on 17% of his overall possessions.
Karnowski has never been a great rebounder, which makes sense considering his average length and lack of explosiveness, which makes it difficult for him to pursue loose balls outside of his area. Last season, Karnowski grabbed 9.3 rebounds per-40 minutes, a fairly pedestrian rate, down from the more acceptable 10.8 rebounds per-40 he posted as a sophomore.
Defensively, Karnowski also saw a regression as a rim protector. He averaged just 1.6 blocks per-40 minutes as a junior (after 2.7 per-40 as a junior). This may have been a result of him playing more conservatively in an effort to lower his foul rate, an effort he largely succeeded with by lowering his fouls per-40 from 4.5 to 3.7. He has mastered the art of getting in position to draw charges, which is likely a better strategy for him considering his athletic limitations.
Still, at his size, Karnowski is largely restricted to the interior defensively. He's too slow on close outs to effectively change shots and he has trouble keeping up with quicker athletes out of the pick and roll.
Overall, Karnowski has the size and skill-level to be an effective NBA player, at least on the offensive end of the floor, but his potential as a defender and rebounder may hurt his chances with the stylistic changes that the league is going through. Changing his body and slimming down significantly would likely help his chances at the pro level, but after four years with little change from a physical standpoint, that may simply not be possible.
With Gonzaga expected to be an elite team again this season, and competing against another very strong schedule, Karnowski will certainly get the exposure to show that he has what it takes to make it at the next level.