Roughly 6,000 fans filled the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday to see the latest edition of Gonzaga basketball, including the four transfers, five new freshmen and several key returning players.
And they came for a progress report on Przemek Karnowski, the 7-foot-1 center who is returning from back surgery. Fans gave Karnowski a standing ovation when he walked out for warm-ups prior to a 20-minute scrimmage in the team’s annual Kraziness in the Kennel event.
Karnowski returned the favor, applauding to acknowledge the crowd. Then the big man contributed 10 points, two assists, one block and one steal to help the Red squad defeat the Blue 52-40.
“I’m really happy with the progress so far,” said Karnowski, who was sidelined for all but five games last season. “I’m back practicing, so I’m really happy about that. I just can’t wait to play in the first official game.”
Karnowski raced into the corner to swat Dustin Triano’s 3-pointer, jogging up a couple of stairs to slow his momentum. He muscled inside for baskets and walled off drives by Blue post men.
Karnowski pump-faked down low, coaxing two defenders into the air and one landed on his back.
“I didn’t want to go too hard into him and get too much contact and put pressure on my back, so I kind of backed out and still got a foul,” said Karnowski, who made 1 of 2 free throws and 6 of 10 overall.
“With everything he went through you can’t help but root for him to have massive success,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He must have drawn 10 fouls. He’s something other teams don’t have.
“We’re trying to really monitor and limit his activity and keep building him up.”
Karnowski had plenty of help as wing Bryan Alberts made three 3-pointers and scored 13 points and freshman forward Killian Tillie added 11 points and five rebounds.
The Red team committed just five turnovers to the Blue’s 12. The scrimmage produced a predictable collection of sharp and sloppy play from a squad barely a week into practice.
Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss had a hand in the Blue’s first 11 points, scoring nine points and lobbing a pass to freshman center Zach Collins for a dunk.
Collins was impressive with eight points and seven boards. Johnathan Williams, who sat out last season after transferring from Missouri, added eight points and four rebounds. Jordan Mathews, a graduate transfer from Cal, chipped in 10 points.
“I haven’t played (an official game) in a year and eight months, so I was pretty anxious to get out on the floor,” said Williams, who participated in last year’s Kraziness scrimmage. “I just tried to have fun. It’s been a long time coming.”
Karnowski knows the feeling. He’s been on the mend since surgery on Dec. 31.
“I told him when he came in (the locker room) it looked like he’s been playing three years and hasn’t sat out at all,” Williams-Goss said.
Mathews defeated Triano in the finals of the 3-point contest. … Collins, paired with a couple of fans, made two half-court shots to win the skills competition. … Freshman guard Zach Norvell didn’t play in the scrimmage. He’s not quite at full speed after summer knee surgery. … Freshman center Jacob Larsen is on crutches after suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice. “Ironically, he was having his best practice,” Few said. “He made an unbelievable move down the lane and just took a bad fall. It’s unfortunate. He was really allowing us to have a lot of depth at the 5 spot.”
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