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Gonzaga’s Karnowski, Bakamus enjoy return trip to No. 1

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski already knew what it felt like to be top dogs. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski already knew what it felt like to be top dogs. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

They picked up the nicknames ‘Shrek’ and ‘Donkey’ when they arrived on campus five years ago.

Santa Przem read Christmas stories to helper Rem in a taped segment that aired during the Gonzaga-South Dakota broadcast on KHQ on Dec. 21.

And now 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski and 6-foot guard Rem Bakamus hold the distinction of being the only players on the two Gonzaga basketball teams to reach No. 1 in the nation.

“Yeah, when all the talk was happening (Monday morning), we were joking around, ‘We’ve been there before. We’ve been No. 1,’ ” Bakamus said. “Obviously it’s still as cool as it was in 2013. It’s really special and it’s cool to share it with these guys.”

Karnowski averaged 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds as a reserve on the 2013 team, which climbed to No. 1 just before the WCC tournament in early March.

The walk-on Bakamus appeared in nine games on the 2013 squad that was led by Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Mike Hart.

“I hope so, maybe,” said coach Mark Few, when asked if Karnowski’s experience would help him deal with the media spotlight from reaching No. 1. “That was Olynyk’s year, Elias, Kevin, Gary and ‘Stocks’ (David Stockton) was playing a lot. Przem was kind of the backup.”

When the polls were released Monday, Karnowski and Bakamus were texting back and forth. They met later to catch up on homework in the athlete’s lab.

“We saw Sam (Dower Jr.) posted on Instagram, and Kelly (Olynyk) and Drew (Barham) and all those guys we played with were posting throw-backs,” Bakamus said. “It just brought back a few memories. It was pretty cool.”

Their nicknames come from characters in “Shrek”, the popular 2001 computer-animated movie.

“That was freshman year,” Bakamus said, “and I think it was because Przem at that time wasn’t doing much talking and I was doing a lot of talking.”

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