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Przemek Karnowski’s season ends due to back surgery

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, right, will miss the rest of the season due to back surgery. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, right, will miss the rest of the season due to back surgery. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Gonzaga senior center Przemek Karnowski underwent season-ending back surgery Thursday, according to coach Mark Few.

Karnowski has missed the last nine games, including Thursday’s road contest against Santa Clara, due to a bulging disc in his back. After showing little or no progress in the four weeks since sustaining the injury during a fall in practice, Karnowski went for additional tests Thursday where it was determined he would need surgery to repair the disc.

“I really feel bad for Przemek,” Few said. “He’s given so much to the program the last three years and it’s especially hard with this being his senior season.”

Karnowski was told he should feel immediate relief following the operation but the projected recovery time is between six and nine months.

“The one good thing is at least he knows what the issue is and what the next step is in the process,” Few said. “He’s just been in quite a bit of pain the last month or so.”

Karnowski should be able to resume his playing career, in part because the disc isn’t in his lower back.

The surgery could mark the end of Karnowski’s career at Gonzaga. He has played in just five games this season and would qualify for a medical redshirt season, but, depending on the length of his recovery, Karnowski could explore options professionally in the NBA or overseas. He considered entering his name in the NBA draft last summer before opting to return to Gonzaga.

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski is listed at 288 pounds, but he’s lost a noticeable amount of weight. He dropped a few pounds from his bout with pneumonia when he returned to school in September after playing for Poland’s national team last summer.

Karnowski, a three-year starter, averaged 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds this season. He earned All-WCC first-team honors last season while averaging 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. He received honorable mention as a sophomore after averaging 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds.

The loss of Karnowski is a big blow to the Zags. Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis have been highly productive with increased playing time during Karnowski’s absence. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Edwards, 7-foot-1 and 294 pounds, will probably see additional minutes.

Coach Mark Few has called Karnowski GU’s most valuable player, perhaps the team’s best passer and one of the top defensive players in the nation.

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