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Przemek Karnowski will return for fifth year at Gonzaga

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Gonzaga's frontcourt will be strong once again next season.

Przemek Karnowski celebrates during Gonzaga's 2015 Sweet 16 win over UCLA.
Przemek Karnowski celebrates during Gonzaga's 2015 Sweet 16 win over UCLA.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Draft just around the corner, Przemek Karnowski has cast away all doubt as to where he will be playing next season.

Gonzaga announced Tuesday that the 7-foot-1 Polish center will be returning to the team for a fifth year. A back injury suffered in December 2015 put an early end to his senior season. But a medical redshirt granted him an extra year of eligibility, all he had to do was take it. He has.

Karnowski averaged 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in five games played last season (all starts), and passed the 1,000 point mark on Nov. 25 in a win over Washington. As a junior he earned First Team All-West Coast Conference and WCC All-Tournament Team honors. He was an honorable mention All-WCC as a sophomore and named to the WCC All-Freshman Team in 2012-13.

A rare breed these days, Karnowski is a true center who thrives with his back to the basket on the low block. He's a load in the paint who can find high-percentage shots almost at will, and is a gifted passer who will make teams pay if they double team him. And he's no slouch on the defensive end either.

At the start of last season, Gonzaga had perhaps the most dominant frontcourt in the country, with Karnowski playing alongside senior Kyle Wiltjer while sophomore Domantas Sabonis came off the bench. Then Karnowski went down, and Sabonis stepped into his role. It wasn't long before Zag fans began to fear that Sabonis would declare for the Draft, Wiljter would graduate and Karnowski wouldn't come back. All they could do was hope that the four-year star would return for a fifth.

Complicating the decision for Karnowski was the timing and severity of his injury. While it happened back in December, his timetable for recovery was six to nine months, which would keep him out of pre-draft workouts.

In an interview with the Spokesman-Review's Jim Meehan back in February, Karnowski outlined that timetable.

"They said I’ll probably be able to start jumping in June, maybe late June, but it’s still three more months to see if everything goes well. It might be up to 7, 8, 9 months before I start playing full speed."

That sets Karnowski up for a return to basketball just in time to start preparing for the 2016-17 season. It would have allowed for some workouts with NBA teams as well, but he has chosen to return to Spokane. With 100 career wins to his name, he needs just 24 next season to become Gonzaga's all-time wins leader (an honor he would have earned last season had he stayed healthy).

With what head coach Mark Few had in place before today, a 10th-straight season with at least 24 wins would have been a safe bet. Karnowski's decision only serves to strengthen that scenario.