Loyola’s sophomore center Cameron Krutwig has improved across the board since his Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Freshman of the Year campaign in 2017. Now, he’s fighting to become just the third player since 2000 to win both Freshman of the Year and MVC Player of the Year during his collegiate career.
Last year, Krutwig was a starter for a Loyola squad that made it to the Final Four and was integral to the roster due to his scoring, rebounding and passing. This year, he’s one of three returning starters for the Ramblers. His improved play has put him in conversation for MVC Player of the Year by various announcers on television broadcasts.
He has the second highest assist percentage on the team — right behind redshirt senior Marques Townes. He ranks sixth in assist percentage in the MVC, assisting on one of every five shots made.
Drake University senior forward Nick McGlynn plays a similar offensive role to Krutwig’s. Yet, McGlynn assists one of every 10 shots when he’s on the floor, so Krutwig is two times better at the job and two years younger.
Assists aren’t the only area Krutwig said he’s improved in. His scoring has improved from 10.5 points per game last season to an average of 14.4 per game this season. His rebounds have also increased on average by 1.3 per game.
Junior guard Bruno Skokna said Krutwig’s improvement can be attributed to the loss of former players Donte Ingram, Aundre Jackson and Ben Richardson. He said losing those three caused Krutwig to step up and become more of a force on the team.
“It’s just everyday improvement by him. He doesn’t take practices off. Coaches will always tell you great players don’t take practices off. They come ready every single day. He never takes practices off.”Porter Moser, Loyola head coach
“This year, we’re calling many more plays for him,” Skokna said. “He’s getting more touches in and, obviously, it’s his second year. He’s getting more comfortable and so I think it’s just a culmination of everything. We all trust in him and if he misses a couple of layups, we’re still going to him and he’s been producing.”
Krutwig’s biggest increase from last year is in field goal percentage. It has increased from 59.8 percent to 65.2 percent — the best in the MVC this season. He’s shooting 150-for-230 and hit 100 percent of his shots in the first three games of the season.
One of Krutwig’s biggest shots of the season came when he hit a corner three-pointer to help seal a win over University of Northern Iowa Jan. 30. Krutwig’s first career three-pointer extended Loyola’s lead to 60-55 with 48 seconds left in the game.
Krutwig said he’s been working on extending his shooting range during practice and the offseason. He also said he’s focused on taking different shots and trying to be better with his right hand.
“That’s something that the coaching staff, coach [Matt] Gordon, has really been on me about ‘right hand, right hand,’” Krutwig said “[Against Drake], I made two really nice right-hand hook shots and that’s going to open up a lot for me coming back to my left.”
Another improvement for Krutwig has been his chemistry with Townes. They’re the Ramblers’ leading scorers with 14.4 points per game and 15.4 points per game, respectively.
Krutwig said they’ve been able to expand the team’s repertoire of plays due to how well him and Townes are able to read each other and work together to convert those plays to points.
“Me and [Townes] have some kind of connection where he can fake and I just know he’s not going to go,” Krutwig said. “Where the defender is at predetermines it. They know he’s probably going to back-cut so if they play the back-cut, [Townes] will fake the back-cut and come out for a handoff and then he’s super low and I’ll get a good screen in.”
“He’s getting more touches in and, obviously, it’s his second year. He’s getting more comfortable and so I think it’s just a culmination of everything. We all trust in him and if he misses a couple of layups, we’re still going to him and he’s been producing.”Bruno Skokna, junior guard
Practice makes perfect for Krutwig, and his ambition to putting in the work has translated to a lot of gains not only for him, but also for the team.
He’s scoring 15.4 points per game during conference play after he scored 13.5 points per game during the non-conference, showing he’s getting better with time. For the entire season, the Ramblers are 10-2 when he shoots at or above 70 percent.
Head coach Porter Moser said Krutwig dedicated the offseason to weight loss, losing more than 20 pounds over the summer and resulting in improved agility. Moser also said it’s the effort in practice every day that has made the biggest impact on his improvement during the season.
“Overall, it’s not as much with the offseason,” Moser said. “It’s just everyday improvement by him. He doesn’t take practices off. Coaches will always tell you great players don’t take practices off. They come ready every single day. He never takes practices off.”
Krutwig has made a big jump in his game from the end of last year to this year. While he was the Freshman of the Year last year, Moser said he thinks he’s far from a finished product.
Krutwig and the Ramblers are scheduled to play Bradley University for the first time this season Feb. 13 in Peoria at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Chicago.