The Loyola men’s basketball team kicked off its season Nov. 10 with an 84-80 win against Wright State University. While senior guard Donte Ingram led the scoring, notable contributions from the newcomers helped the Ramblers pull out a victory.
The Ramblers added three first-year recruits to the team to make a roster of 16 players. Christian Negron began his season with an injury, leaving Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson the only two first-years available to play.
Krutwig played a total of 17 minutes. He shot 5-7 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Krutwig also had two assists, one turnover and one block.
“I think Cam Krutwig right now is the one that’s really in the mix,” head coach Porter Moser said. “We haven’t had a true five-man center at Loyola in a long time and I think he’s going to fit that role.”
Krutwig said he was nervous about the transition from Jacobs High School in Algonquin to college, but his teammates have made it easier.
“These guys are great. I love them,” Krutwig said. “It makes it a lot easier to know that you’re welcomed. Sometimes — on some teams — freshmen are out of the picture, but on this team we aren’t like that. We are all one big family.”
Krutwig said he’s grateful for the camaraderie that playing for Loyola has brought him. He said the team’s chemistry was evident in its first game.
“It’s pretty exciting, obviously,” Krutwig said. “Just to know that we are all on a team together and we are all here to do the same goal and win and just keep building chemistry between us. It’s been pretty good so far.”
Krutwig said he feels he’s brought a lot to the table and is excited for the season to kick off. In his first game he showed he’s a force to be reckoned with, scoring multiple buckets and maintaining a strong hold on defense.
“I feel like I’ve brought a voice on defense,” Krutwig said. “I think that I’m talking a lot and recognizing what the other team wants to do. I’m bringing the IQ to the game that every player should have.”
Krutwig’s basketball IQ came out in his collegiate debut. The Ramblers were clinging to a second half lead and were pressured by a full court press from Wright State. When Krutwig realized the Ramblers were going to be charged with a 10 second violation for not getting the ball across midcourt, he called a timeout, saving the team from a loss in possession.
“It’s tough because coaches can’t call timeouts during a live ball,” Moser said. “So he recognized it and just in the moment he made a lot of good plays. He kept his hands on a lot of plays. He had two really nice assists for baskets. I expect big things from him. I love his energy and his passion for the game.”
Krutwig said he has high hopes for the season, but he knows it’s not going to be easy — getting to the bigger tournaments takes work.
“We want to win the [Missouri Valley Conference] and go to the NCAA tournament and that’s not going to come by just saying it,” Krutwig said. “We have to put the work in during practice and games so we can ultimately get there.”
WIlliamson said it was a dream come true to get to play Division I basketball.
“This has been my dream for 18 years now,” Williamson said. “And for it all to be coming to [fruition] it’s kind of shocking but also what I’ve been expecting of myself.”
Williamson was especially happy to play Division I at Loyola, since he’s lived in Chicago his entire life. He said it was important for him to find a school close to home while being recruited.
“Playing in Chicago, in the city that I grew up in [made playing at Loyola special]. It’s shocking, we are playing in a big city and I love it,” Williamson said. “I love the culture here and I’m excited to get the season going.”
Williamson said he’s already learned so much, but he’s looking forward to seeing what else he can improve on and offer the team.
“I feel like I bring energy and positive mind set to the team,” Williamson said. “I’m just trying to learn what I can from the older guys and really take in what coach [Moser] is saying. I just want to show up every day willing and ready to accept what guys have to tell me.”
Moser said he has high hopes for the first-years and is looking forward to seeing how they play.
“[I hope they] add depth to the team,” Moser said. “I think each one of them is bringing rebounding. With Krutwig and with Christian Negron, one of Negron’s strengths is rebounding. We’ve got to get him back, but when he gets back, it’ll be nice to see what he can do.”
Negron tore his ACL last September and tore his meniscus in July while in recovery. He has had surgery for both and is now undergoing the rehabilitation process.
“Everything feels fine when I’m working out and everything,” Negron said. “The only problem is there is some swelling in my knee so we are trying to get that down and for the most part it’s been down a consistent amount so we are just waiting on clearance from the doctor.”
Negron said he isn’t going to let his injury get in the way of his excitement of playing college basketball.
“It’s every youth basketball player’s dream [to play Division I],” Negron said. “To finally be living it just feels really great and it’s just that much better now that we are getting going with the season. I just can’t wait to be out there playing with the team.”
Despite his injury, Negron is hopeful for his first season. He said he plans on learning a lot from everyone and using that knowledge to grow as a player and a person.
“Being an incoming freshman, we have a great coach with a lot of great basketball insight,” Negron said. “I just take everything in that he passes on to me.”
Like Krutwig, Negron also hopes to make it to the NCAA tournament. He grew up watching the tournament and said it would be amazing if the team made it.
“It would be crazy [to make the NCAA tournament]. A lot of people watch it,” Negron said. “It’s just one of those times where the moment is so special when you’re playing in it and it would be a dream come true.”
While Negron hopes they make it that far, he said he’s also just grateful to play as a Rambler.
“It’s something really special,” Negron said. “Loyola is a school in the state of Illinois, where I’m from. When I committed and as I got to know the school more and represent what the school is about, there came a sense of pride with it. It’s just a really good feeling.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to play Nov. 16 against University of Missouri Kansas City in Kansas City.