After playing such a prominent role in yet another Loyola-Chicago postseason run in March, star center Cameron Krutwig decided to declare for the 2021 NBA Draft. There's no question that he'll go down as one of the best players to ever suit up for the Ramblers.
Krutwig finished his Loyola-Chicago career with three regular season Missouri Valley Conference championships, two MVC Tournament championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances. In his four years with the Ramblers, he averaged 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Though he isn't considered a freak athlete, Krutwig has proven that he can take over a game with his footwork and touch. Any doubts about his skillset were put to rest when he outplayed Illinois center Kofi Cockburn in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists against the top-seeded team in the Midwest Region.
NBA analysts and scouts quickly pointed out how lethal Krutwig can be in the low post. Over the years, we've seen centers like Marc Gasol and Nikola Jokic revolutionize the center position because of their ability to get their teammates clean looks. That's something Krutwig should have no problem doing at the next level.
In addition to being a crafty player on the hardwood, Krutwig is a charitable person off the court. This week he's hosting "Cam for a Cause," an event that is designed to help the Jacobs High School Athletic Boosters Club.
We sat down with Cameron Krutwig to discuss his incredible career at Loyola-Chicago, what has been his inspiration throughout this process, why he felt it was the right time to declare for the NBA Draft and much more.
The Spun: You just came off another great run with the Ramblers. What was this season like due to all the obstacles presented by COVID-19?
Cameron Krutwig: Two years ago, the season ended and we all got sent home with a lot of questions. We didn’t know if we were even going to have a 2020-21 season. There were so many conversations about the NCAA starting the season in December. We were finally allowed to get up to campus in the fall and start working out, but we still didn’t know if there were going to be any games. That was tough, especially when you’re going into your senior year. Fortunately, everything turned out the way I thought it would. The one bad part about this season was that we didn’t have fans at games. It took a little bit out of the experience. Every time we got to play a game though, we were just happy to lace up our shoes. It was a new normal for us, and that’s what Coach Moser would call it. Regarding the fans though, it almost made the games a bit easier. You could hear everything on the court since the crowd wasn’t a factor. I do know that it’s easier to hear in a quiet gym, so it actually helped me recognize some stuff and become more of a mental player. With the tournament and everything, it was great to have fans back in the seats and have some interactions with people for the first time.
The Spun: You guys made a statement in the Round of 32, defeating top-seeded Illinois. What’d you make of your performance against Kofi Cockburn?
CK: When the brackets came out, everyone jumped toward that Illinois game. But first, we had to focus on Georgia Tech. After we beat Georgia Tech though, a lot of stuff was coming out about how Illinois has this high-powered offense, two All-Americans and how Kofi [Cockburn] has dominated every big man he’s played. You try to block it out, but it’s all over ESPN and stuff like that. So, you come into the game with a chip on your shoulder. It’s a rivalry game with two in-state teams, and we haven’t played each other in a long time, so that’s why I think the NCAA matched us up in the same region. They wanted a big game and a big storyline. It was a great game though. It wasn’t just me - we all came in with the right mentality. We had maybe five or six guys on our team from Illinois, but we never got recruited from the University of Illinois. I always thought I was a good enough player to play for them, but I never got offers. I went into that game with a chip on my shoulder, and I know other guys did as well. We pretty much controlled the whole game. It was the best game of my career for sure as far as a team win.
The Spun: Did you notice that basketball fans fell in love with you during the NCAA Tournament?
CK: For sure. After we beat Illinois, it was crazy. The next three days with the media was nuts. We were doing interviews with our hometowns; I was on The Dan Patrick Showand Good Morning America. That’s the benefit of March Madness. Every year in the NCAA Tournament, there’s a team that captures the hearts of everyone and goes on a run. When that happens, the media comes with the team. I was used to it because I went through this during my freshman year when we made the Final Four. I knew what to expect and how crazy it can get. Everyone fell in love with the mustache, so it was definitely a fun couple of weeks.
The Spun: What was it like learning from Porter Moser, and were you surprised he left for Oklahoma?
CK: I learned a lot from Coach Moser. When I was in high school, I thought I knew the game well. The college game is way different though. I learned a lot of stuff, such as technical terms and offensive spacing. I know some people were sad to see Coach Moser go, but a lot of the guys on the team understood the move. He built this program up for 10 years and did all he could to get the program in the right spot. Just like I want to play professional basketball, he wants to coach at the highest level he can coach at. Oklahoma felt like a no-brainer since they have a great facility and play in a big-time conference. I think another factor is that it’s hard to make the NCAA Tournament when you’re in the Missouri Valley Conference. If you have a bad game, it can really hurt you. I think that was a big reason for this move. When you’re in the Big 12, losses don’t count as much because every team you face is rated higher. I don’t remember how many teams from the Big 12 made the NCAA Tournament, but it’s definitely more than what the MVC sent.
The Spun: Instead of using your final year of eligibility, you declared for the NBA Draft. Why is now the right time for that move?
CK: I think it was just my time to go. I had a great four years at Loyola, I didn’t transfer, and built up a great reputation in the Chicago area. I didn’t want to transfer somewhere and throw that out the window. I was a Third-Team All-American this year. I guess I could’ve played one more year and shot for the second or first-team. We won three conference championships, two conference tournament championships, made the Final Four once and the Sweet 16 twice during my time here. There just wasn’t much left for me to do as far as accomplishments go. It may have been a bit different if we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament or lost in the opening round, but I felt like it was my time to go. I’ve always wanted to play professional basketball, and now, I’ll have that chance.
The Spun: Speaking of professional basketball, are there any NBA players you like to study?
CK: Me and my trainer have been watching some Bam Adebayo. Obviously, Nikola Jokic and I have a similar playing style. He’s probably the MVP of the league this year - he’s incredible. I find myself watching a lot more NBA basketball now. Just from watching the game, you can learn a lot from the broadcast and translate it into some of your workouts. I watch a lot of Bam, Jokic and Nikola Vucevic, but in general, I just try to pick up tips from watching the NBA as a whole.
The Spun: In terms of your skillset, what would you say is your best attribute?
CK: I would say either my touch with the floaters and hooks, or my ability to read the game. I’m always trying to be a step or two ahead of the defense. I’m a creative player, so I see angles that other guys might not see in the passing lanes. One of the things I’m looking at is that if a guy doesn’t have vision on me, I can slip a bounce pass right by your shoe or anything like that. I’m a cerebral guy. I try to get my teammates in the right spots so we can attack the defense. I pride myself on knowing what to do in different coverages and playing to the team’s strengths.
The Spun: Do you feel like NBA scouts/analysts are sleeping on your playmaking abilities and vision?
CK: I’m for sure under the radar. Everyone has questions about me, like who can I guard or can I deal with bigger shot-blockers. Obviously, the big thing is can I shoot or not. That’s something I need to work on. Ever since the season ended, I’ve been shooting every day and trying my best to get my body right. I’ve dropped maybe 10 or 15 pounds since the season ended. I’m around 268 [pounds] right now, which is less than the 285 [pounds] I played at this season. Everyone I’ve talked to has told me that I look a lot better and I’m dunking better. I know that seems stupid to say, but I never really used to be a dunker. I always used to finish with layups, but now I’m finishing above the rim. I’ve still got ways to go, but workouts will start ramping up. Earlier today, I made 17-of-25 attempts from the NBA three-point line. I got great mechanics and I work with my trainer on foot placement. It’s a matter of getting in reps and being comfortable to shoot the ball during games. I think I’m going to surprise some people with the way I’m shooting the ball. Combine that with my touch and feel for the game, and I definitely feel like I’m flying under the radar. I don’t know if there will be full workouts because of COVID-19, but I just need a chance to show what I can do.
The Spun: What has been your driving force up to this point?
CK: Just the ability to say that I can play basketball every day for a living. I’ve really found my love for the game over the past six weeks. I’m developing my game and developing who I am as a player. Not many people can say they get to play a sport for a living. So I think that and trying to prove my doubters wrong really drives me. I try to play the right way and make it to the highest level I can.
The Spun: What is an NBA team getting in Cameron Krutwig?
CK: Off the court, when I was at Loyola, there wasn’t a bigger culture guy than me. I’m not this type of guy, but my freshman class really helped build the culture at Loyola. We were brothers for life. I’m a guy who likes to have fun, but I’m also serious and will do whatever the coaches ask me to do. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for the coaches I’ve learned from. An NBA team will be getting a culture guy who will do everything he can to help the team win.
Krutwig certainly has the IQ and skills to play in the NBA. All he needs now is for one of the 30 teams in the league to give him a chance.
With roughly two months left in the draft process, Krutwig has plenty of time to win over the hearts of NBA coaches and scouts. Judging by how quickly he became a beloved figure at the collegiate level, he should have no problem making a strong impression.
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