Krutwig grows up quickly at Jacobs
When Jimmy Roberts took over the Jacobs varsity basketball program at the start of the season, he and former coach Jim Hinkle had several conversations, including one about incoming freshman Cameron Krutwig.
Krutwig, a 6-foot-6 back-to-the-basket player with an already impressive repertoire of moves, had been on Hinkle's radar.
"(Hinkle) talked about Cameron and said, if he were still the coach, Cameron would be on varsity," Roberts recalled. "So, at the start of our summer program, we took him and it was apparent since Day One that he could handle himself and help us."
Like any player competing on a varsity squad as a freshman, there is an adjustment period from playing against eighth-grade players to polished high school varsity players but Krutwig was able to make a relatively seamless transition due to his knowledge and understanding of the game.
If he made a mistake on the floor, whether it was a bad pass or a missed defensive assignment, he took a mental note and made sure to not make the same mistake again. One of the freshman's most important learning experiences came in the team's first game.
Krutwig remembers it well, a loss to Carbondale at the Quincy tournament. His defensive assignment was 6-6 forward Jordan Kelly, who is aggressive attacking the basket and spared no effort against the Golden Eagles' freshman.
Kelly was 5 for 6 with 10 points and six rebounds. Krutwig finished 0 for 3.
"That game, it was an eye opener," Krutwig said. "I realized that I wasn't on the playground anymore."
Roberts figures that Krutwig is the team's smartest player due to his ability to make adjustments and learn from experiences quickly.
About one month after facing Kelly, Jacobs played Carmel and Krutwig faced the Corsairs' 6-10 Jack George, who scored 23 points to Krutwig's 1. Fast forward a month to conference play when the freshman guarded Huntley star Amanze Egekeze, who scored 15 to Krutwig's nine.
During each of those games, Krutwig was like a sponge, gathering information on how these established high school big men played their position and adjusted his game to better himself.
"He compares a lot of guys he played back to him," Roberts said. "Our first game of the year when he played against Kelly, that's been his baseline.
"He talks about George and Amanze and he'll say, 'These guys are good.' He's constantly picking things up and you can tell the wheels are always turning in his mind."
Through playing AAU basketball with FundamentalU and learning from competition, Krutwig has added several different post moves and is up to six or seven now.
Part of that ability to adapt to the game comes from playing basketball nearly every day with his older brother, Conrad, 23, a former Jacobs basketball player.
With an eight-year difference in age, Krutwig was put through some tough lessons when the two would get together and play, but like this season, his mind was always churning and picking up tips along the way that aided in his growth in the game.
"He is above his years," Conrad said. "Having an older brother, he hung out with an older crew a lot and has a more advanced basketball background than most. I think he is a kid who just gets it."
Conrad was in the bleachers watching his brother score 12 important points during last Friday's regional final win over Dundee-Crown. The Golden Eagles will need a similar performace when Jacobs (18-13) meets South Elgin (17-14) in the a Class 4A Elgin Sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
His growth throughout the season has earned him the respect and trust of his teammates and Roberts.
"It takes some trust to get kids to throw it into the post in the high school game," Roberts said. "Our guys know that when you get the ball into Cam, positive things happen.
"Sometimes we forget he's a freshman."