Polish players aren’t common in the NBA, so former Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski doesn’t have many role models from his home country.
But one who does exist – Washington Wizards big man Marcin Gortat – certainly set a path for Karnowski, who worked out for the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday.
Gortat entered the NBA as a strong defender of limited offensive skill. He’s made himself into a more versatile scorer, and is a big piece of the Wizards’ recent success.
Karnowski, a giant at 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, has decent post moves and averaged nearly a block per game last season during Gonzaga’s run to the Final Four. He’s worked on some offensive variety in preparation for the June 22 NBA draft.
“I’ve been working on the 15 to 18-foot shot. Try to change up my game and show teams I can be more versatile,” said Karnowski, who shot 59 percent from the field in his past two seasons at Gonzaga.
Karnowski, who figures to be a second-round pick, said he started following the NBA avidly about seven years ago.
“It was kind of hard to watch the NBA growing up because of the time difference. But I’d sneak (sleeping) to my parents and watch it in my room on the computer,” Karnowski said. “I know all the (NBA history) about Charlotte: Changing the name from Bobcats back to Hornets.
One plus for Karnowski is his experience. He played for Poland’s national team each of the past four summers.
“Playing on the highest level of competition in Europe – Spain, France, Lithuania – has helped a lot,” Karnowski said. “It helps a lot to be a younger player playing with older guys.”
The Hornets also auditioned Davidson guard Jack Gibbs Wednesday. Gibbs was a prolific scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 22.1 points his senior season. But he’s undersized by NBA standards at 6-0.
“I thought I shot the ball off the dribble well. I tried to talk a lot, show people I can be a leader as a point guard,” said Gibbs.
This was Gibbs’ first pre-draft workout. He has one scheduled with the Denver Nuggets Friday, then with the Milwaukee Bucks next week.
Gibbs said he needs to work on his defense, particularly quickness. He believes he’s strong enough defensively to compete professionally.
Coaching staff moves
With associate head coach Patrick Ewing leaving to coach his alma mater, Georgetown, Hornets coach Steve Clifford had an opening to fill.
The Hornets announced Wednesday the hiring of Mike Batiste, who last season was in player development with the Brooklyn Nets.
Clifford confirmed Wednesday that Stephen Silas, who has been with the Hornets since 2010, is now the coaching staff’s lead assistant. Silas interviewed last summer for the head-coaching opening with the Houston Rockets that went to Mike D’Antoni.
Batiste played professionally for 14 seasons, one with the Memphis Grizzlies and the rest internationally. He played small forward, power forward and some center in various leagues.
Batiste worked up quite a sweat Wednesday working out, among others, Hornets forward Johnny O’Bryant.
“I try to work with things they’re uncomfortable with. I never say ‘weaknesses.’ I work so that when they (are in games) they’re now comfortable with it.”
Batiste is working on tapping into O’Bryant’s yet unrealized potential.
“Johnny is a worker, he wants to get better. My message to him every day is come into the gym and get 1 percent better. If there is something specific to work on, let me know, because we’re here for you.”
Clifford said he plans to bring O’Bryant, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber to Orlando for summer league next month, along with rookies chosen with the 11th and 41st overall picks.
The Hornets don’t have another pre-draft workout scheduled until Saturday, with players to be announced.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell