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March Madness: South Carolina’s Chris Silva, Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski were exposed late to Final Four

South Carolina's Chris Silva speaks during news conference

South Carolina's Chris Silva speaks during news conference ahead of the NCAA's Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 31, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz. Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Most of the players here began dreaming of playing in the Final Four at a very young age. For many it was likely their first foray into sports consciousness, watching the event on television as elementary school-aged kids.

But for a few, they came to the idea of the Final Four a bit later.

Chris Silva, a sophomore forward for South Carolina, grew up in Gabon, a tiny country on the west coast of central Africa. He said he had never even heard of the Final Four until he was a junior in high school.

“That’s when I started watching basketball on TV because my coach was on me about learning,” he said. “He told me I had to watch basketball to go to college and the NBA. So that was the first time I saw the game and the Final Four. I don’t remember who was playing but I know I was amazed by the competition, to see how many people were attending the games.”

In Poland, meanwhile, Gonzaga’s fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski also was being exposed to the event a bit later than his American-born teammates. He was about 14 years old and recalls watching Florida win the title. He doesn’t remember if it was the first or second of their back-to-back runs, but he remembers the thrill of seeing college basketball’s biggest stage.

“There is a time difference in Poland so the games were on at 2 or 3 a.m.,” he said. “My parents told me to go to sleep but I tried to find some streams online to try to watch it and since then it’s been kind of my dream to play in the NCAA . . . I had the lights off in my room watching on my computer and I was hoping my parents were asleep.”

On Saturday night — Sunday morning in Poland — they won’t be. The game, Karnowski said, will be broadcast on Polish television for the first time ever. Opening a door, perhaps, for some other player to get his first glimpse of the Final Four and begin to dream about playing in it one day.

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