Men’s Basketball Senior spotlight
Loyola’s living legend
Senior men’s basketball co-captain Cameron Krutwig anchors the Ramblers as the team shoots for a postseason even greater than 2018
Everybody remembers their first. For Drew Valentine, Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball assistant coach, it was an exhibition against Lewis University on a Saturday night in October 2017. He’d been hired that June, moving from Oakland University to work under head coach Porter Moser. His new employer hadn’t finished above .500 in conference play in 10 years, hadn’t won a conference regular season championship in 30 years, and hadn’t qualified for the NCAA tournament since 1985. Lewis was not exactly a hot ticket either. Valentine thinks there were “probably 40 people” in the stands.
One of them was Valentine’s father, Carlton, who drove in for his son’s Loyola coaching debut. Carlton was a letterman at Michigan State, an overseas professional, and champion head coach at Michigan’s J.W. Sexton High School. His younger son, Denzel, now plays for the Bulls. Carlton is a man who knows a thing or two about hoops. And his scouting report that night could not have been more accurate: Cameron Krutwig, then a freshman from Algonquin, Illinois, would be an All-American someday. “My dad said that after the first time seeing him!” Valentine says. “It’s crazy.”
You could have excused the layperson for not reaching a similar conclusion. Krutwig was ranked 348th in his recruiting class, a southpaw who could not make a three-pointer to save his life. He received scholarship offers from the likes of Lehigh, American, and Alabama-Birmingham. He knew “honestly nothing” about Loyola before Moser reached out, except that their gym—pre-renovation—felt “a little old, kind of shabby.” He was babyfaced and flabbier than many Division I forwards. He bounded around on the balls of his feet. “A lot of people remember me from my freshman year,” he says now. “You know, that awkward kid, a funny guy.”
Krutwig made up for his deficiencies in other ways. Valentine hadn’t seen him compete on the high school summer circuit but was immediately struck by his quick feet, his sharp intellect, and his work ethic. Moser inserted Krutwig into the starting lineup four games into his freshman campaign. Since then, he’s suited up 125 times (through March 1), and has started all but once. “That much polish, that much knowledge and feel—it’s just so rare,” Valentine says.
That 2017-18 freshman season began with promise and ended with a miraculous Final Four appearance. His senior campaign has all the makings, too—in February, the Ramblers (21-4, 16-2) entered the AP Top 25, the first time the program has been slotted into a regular-season poll in 36 years. They've already won their third Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season title in four seasons and at least 18 games for the fifth straight. They lead the entire nation in both scoring defense and defensive efficiency, and sit at 16th in the NCAA’s proprietary NET rankings. A deep run through March Madness is not guaranteed, especially during a pandemic, but it’s absolutely conceivable.
What’s absolutely guaranteed? Krutwig will go down as one of the University’s greats, the only Rambler to finish his career in Loyola’s top-10 in points, rebounds, and assists. Nobody has been more crucial to Loyola’s emergence as a mid-major basketball power. Cam is at the center of every frame.