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Gonzaga Basketball

Przemek Karnowski’s lackluster finale doesn’t taint legacy

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is pressured by North Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks, left, and Isaiah Hicks. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

GLENDALE, Ariz.—Przemek Karnowski was motionless during the postgame press conference after the national championship game. He rested his left fist on his cheek and stared blankly at the name tag in front of him on the podium.

Finally he was awakened by a question.

“Przemek, in your last game as a college athlete, what will be the one thing that you remember forever about it?”

“That I missed a lot of layups,” responded Karnowski, who went 1 of 8 from the field in Gonzaga’s 71-65 loss to North Carolina. “I don’t know. It wasn’t my best game. We threw the ball into the post and I didn’t deliver. So I’ll probably remember that.”

A shortsighted response, especially for the player that boasts the most wins in Gonzaga and Division I history with 137. A player that was a part of both teams that reached a No. 1 Associated Press ranking and secured the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But then he paused, and offered this:

“But at the same time, just playing with these guys for the last time, it’s been an awesome year, and this group of guys brought me so much joy this year basketball-wise and life-wise.”

The 7-foot-1, 300-pound center was a part of a lot of victories. He’s played in the most NCAA Tournament games in Gonzaga history and was a key cog in the team which won 37 games this season.

And his teammates will remind you it wasn’t just his 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game that left a mark on this team. It was the blonde-bearded center’s leadership that resonated the most.

“He’s meant everything. He’s taught me so much,” freshman center Zach Collins said. “Before I came to Gonzaga, there was a lot of stuff I wasn’t doing on the court. Even if I was tired and didn’t feel like doing something, he was always the one to say to be ‘Come on, man, you got to go.’ ”

The loss to the Tar Heels wasn’t the bookend Karnowski or his teammates wanted to his illustrious career. After all, Karnowski was a part of many locker-room celebrations and smiles after wins.

But his legacy? It’s nothing to scoff at.

“Przemek’s one of the greatest Zags of all time,” guard Josh Perkins said. “I’m just really sad, really hurt it’s the last game for (him).”