Loyola junior Cameron Krutwig is the men’s basketball team’s “unicorn” — a big man who can score and pass.
Loyola’s offense seems to run through the 6-foot-9 center even though he plays down low. Because of this, teams have to get creative to defend him. If he’s double-teamed, he can kick it out to an open teammate who might have a better look.
But if teams play him one-on-one, like Missouri State University did Jan. 4, he could torch them on his own.
That versatility is a big reason why “The Big Fella” was named the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Preseason Player of the Year. He can cut through defenses with his hook shot and his bounce pass.
Krutwig has struggled the last two games, though. Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University held him to two of his lowest scoring games of the season at eight points and seven points, respectively.
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“You could really hear Krutwig talking on defense,” Moser said after Loyola defeated Illinois State Jan. 19. “Everyone around heard Krutwig yelling out different stuff. He was really loud defensively.”
The last two games aside, coaches still struggle to build a defensive game plan around him because he could heat up from the field or find open teammates at any given time.
Southern Illinois’ game plan was to double-team Krutwig down low and take away his shot. But Missouri State went a different route, putting 6-foot-9 junior forward Gaige Prim up one-on-one against him when the two teams faced off.
“It wasn’t our typical game of assists,” Krutwig said. “We usually move the ball a lot more. … [But] there was really nowhere for me to pass the ball. It was just go [and] score.”
“When he gets the ball and starts dribbling in the paint, [we] just try to swarm him,” said Illinois State forward Zach Copeland. “He’s a big body. He’s pretty hard to stop.”
Prior to Loyola’s matchup with Illinois State, Redbirds head coach Dan Muller also mentioned Krutwig’s passing skills as a separator from other big men in the conference. But he added one more aspect of “King Krut’s” game: ball-handling.
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Krutwig will look to continue his dominance into the last two-thirds of conference play, starting with a matchup against Indiana State University Jan. 22 at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.