Four years ago, Cameron Krutwig made waves as the starting center of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers’ Cinderella run to the US NCAA Final Four.
Krutwig’s style of play centered on timing and footwork captured the hearts of a worldwide audience as he became the face of that lovable Ramblers team. He operates primarily from the post and plays close to the ground like those big men from a few decades ago, but that has never stopped him from becoming a force around the rim in the modern basketball landscape.
The 6’9 center is a skillful passer as well which, coupled with his bulky frame, has been more than enough to open up inevitable comparisons to reigning back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic.
To cap off his amateur career, he made one more appearance in the NCAA tournament in his final year with Loyola-Chicago in 2021 where they upset the top seeded Illinois before falling to Oregon State in the Sweet Sixteen. Over his four collegiate seasons, he averaged 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists.
Although he was not selected in the 2021 NBA Draft, Krutwig landed on his feet and suited up for the Belgian professional team Telenet Giants Antwerp. Now, he has taken his talents to the PBA where he has signed on as the import of the Blackwater Bossing for the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
While the 23-year-old Krutwig does not look like the typical lanky and athletic PBA import, his balanced skillset and fundamentally sound game have once again allowed him to become a deceptively impactful player.
In Blackwater’s second outing of the Commissioner’s Cup, Krutwig helped them secure their first win of the tournament with an all-around performance that brought out the best from his teammates. He flourished as a facilitator from the post and rewarded his teammates for their movement as he found the open man on countless possessions in their 97-85 win over the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
Krutwig wound up with a full line, scoring 17 points on eight-of-14 shots along with 16 rebounds, seven assists, and a block.
Considering his high usage rate with the Bossing, his three turnovers can be overlooked and the only true blemish on his performance was his one-of-five shooting from the free throw line. His unselfish play invigorated his teammates and four of them scored at least 10 points.
Their starting point guard Baser Amer led them with 24 points, three three-pointers, two steals, and only one assist as he gave way to Krutwig to orchestrate their offense.
The newly-acquired Troy Rosario added 15 points and 10 rebounds while team captain Rashawn McCarthy tallied 12 points, three rebounds, four assists, and a steal. The reserves chipped in too as Rey Suerte contributed 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in only 23 minutes of action and Gab Banal had 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Blackwater’s energy on offense carried over to the defensive end also as they limited Phoenix to only 34% shooting from the field and just one made three-pointer in the second half after they hit eight during the initial two quarters. The local players of the Super LPG Fuel Masters were hounded by the defense of the Bossing and none of them were able to provide their import Kaleb Wesson with any meaningful support.
This team is fresh off their first quarterfinal appearance in five conferences in the recently concluded 2022 PBA Philippine Cup and have now improved to 1-1 in the Commissioner’s Cup. They look like a group that is capable of making a second consecutive top eight elimination round finish for the first time in franchise history.
They are a hungry unit filled with notable players, particularly Amer and Rosario, who have been discarded from the league’s bigger franchises and are raring to prove that they still have something left to offer. The eventual recovery of veteran guard JVee Casio from an undisclosed preseason injury should help as well.
Furthermore, the savvy Krutwig may turn out to be a dark horse candidate for the Bobby Parks PBA Best Import of the Conference award given how promising he has looked so far.
Hope springs eternal for Blackwater and if they can finish with a winning record for only the third time in the 20 conferences that they have participated in since 2014, they may finally start making progress on gaining respectability in the PBA.