Moe Wagner’s pump fake drew Cam Krutwig off-balance on the perimeter. Moments later, Krutwig was a step behind him in the lane before Wagner finished off a right-handed dunk.
The Jacobs graduate from Algonquin was sound offensively in Loyola’s 69-57 Final Four loss to Michigan, collecting 17 points and shooting 7-of-11 from the field. But Krutwig’s inability to defend an athletic big man in Wagner, including his miscue in the second half, yielded him 24 minutes overall. He averaged only 23.7 minutes a game because of the same rationale.
Now, Krutwig has refined his technique while guarding college basketball’s nontraditional stretch fives, along with evolving his own offensive repertoire in his sophomore season. He and Dave Vitel – the Ramblers’ associate athletic director of sports performance – teamed up in the offseason to achieve his development by refining his conditioning, lowering his body fat to 18 percent in the process.
“My first year [with Krutwig], it was all about losing weight (35 pounds before his freshman season),” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “Now, it’s about hardening his body, being more agile.”
Vitel is in his second go-around with the Ramblers (2001 to 2006) after a five-year run as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ strength and conditioning coach (2006 to 2011). Moser credited him with generating healthier meal plans for Krutwig and stressing heavier dinners to avoid snacking in the late evening.
Krutwig cited Vitel emphasizing the need to constantly alter his workout regimen to retain his confidence in his quickness and lower-body strength.
“Today, run a mile,” he said. “Tomorrow, do 20 [seconds] on, 20 [seconds] off sprints on the treadmill. ... [The next day,] we’re gonna push the sled.”
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound center noted he saw an immediate improvement while sliding his feet on defense over prolonged stretches in practice, aiding his positioning under the rim as well. Krutwig, who was the 2017-18 Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year before joining Loyola guard Marques Townes on the preseason All-MVC second team, finished seventh in league play in defensive rebounding rate (20.6 percent) and first (14.5 percent) at the other end of the court.
Offensively, Krutwig has aimed to enhance his low-post moves with his right hand. He said teams were able to defend him solely from his right shoulder because of his inexperience. He’s also implemented a face-up game, working with redshirt sophomore Aher Uguak on high-low action – with Uguak positioned on the block.
The two exhibited their chemistry in an 82-52 exhibition win over Winona State on Oct. 23, as Krutwig posted 12 points and five rebounds.
“Taking two dribbles, making the [defense] collapse on me and kick it,” Krutwig said. “We run a ton of back cuts. ... It’s just a feel for the game. If [a teammate is] open, pass him the ball. I’ve definitely worked more on my face-up jump shot [as well].”
Ramblers associate head coach Bryan Mullins – a former Southern Illinois guard who was inducted into the Salukis’ Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 – has even helped Krutwig continue to expand his point guard-like prowess on both sides of the floor. Mullins represented a crucial piece during SIU’s Sweet 16 run in 2007.
“I just tell him, ‘Keep thinking the game,’” Mullins said. “His I.Q. is really, really good anyways for a sophomore now. ... If Clay [Custer] is out, if Marques [Townes] is out, he’s gotta make sure the offense is where it needs to be. Sniff out things defensively for us. It’s rare for a big guy to be able to think like that, but Krutwig has the capabilities of being able to think ahead and think one, two plays ahead.”
Beyond Krutwig’s individual skill set, he’s begun mentoring his fellow frontcourt mates, including freshman Franklin Agunanne. The 6-9, 245-pound forward likely will have a role off the bench, looking to assist Loyola in defending its MVC regular-season crown. The program was tabbed the favorite in the conference’s preseason poll.
Moser considers Krutwig a “veteran,” and the underclassman will try to showcase his growth in Loyola’s season opener, facing UMKC on Tuesday at Gentile Arena.