Krutwig throws one down for the Antwerp Giants. | Courtesy of Kevin Krutwig
The big lefty is chasing the dream while monitoring the progress of the Ramblers from Antwerp, Belgium.
Look, Cameron Krutwig is the first to admit he’s no Adam Schefter or Peter King. But after the Bears lost their fifth straight game in Week 11, the former Loyola basketball star took it upon himself to tweet — in no uncertain terms — that coach Matt Nagy was “gone.”
But Nagy didn’t get fired, and the Bears won their next game in Detroit on Thanksgiving. On the podcast he co-hosts with Ramblers senior Will Alcock, Krutwig did the honorable thing and owned up to having blown it.
“Sometimes you hear stuff from us that’s right, and sometimes you don’t,” he said. “And this was one of those times when we were not right. … But it’s all [just] feelings.”
“No facts,” Alcock confirmed.
What fun are facts, anyway? There are only about 500 subscribers so far to the “Bears. Blers. Belgium.” pod on Apple Podcasts, but Krutwig isn’t doing it for attention and fanfare. He’s doing it for fun and friendship. Guests have included Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson, stars of Loyola’s 2018 Final Four team. They talk Bears, Krutwig’s favorite team on the planet. They talk ‘Blers. And they talk about the life of a lovable lefty big man who, at 22, is in his first professional season with the Antwerp Giants.
Man, it sure has been strange watching the Ramblers — who were 8-2 entering Friday’s game at Vanderbilt — move on post-Porter Moser and post-Krutwig, who became one hell of a player and the, well, let’s call it charmingly mustached face of the program.
It’s perhaps strangest of all for Krutwig, who has monitored the team’s progress as closely as possible from Antwerp, which is seven hours ahead of Chicago. A group chat with all his old Ramblers teammates helps fill in the blanks.
“I think they’re a classic Loyola team,” he told me in a direct-message exchange that went on throughout the week. “A tough, physical, senior-led, smart basketball team that’s gonna be really tough to [beat] in March. I know these dudes have their expectations set high, and for good reason. And it’s great to see Lucas [Williamson] become more of a scorer, which we knew he could but sometimes last year it was tough for him because we played so much through me. … He’s definitely on [Missouri Valley Conference] player of the year watch.”
I messaged him after Loyola beat DePaul last weekend, wondering if he’d had a longing to be there. We can all imagine what it must be like to be months out of school and so far from home, from friends, from Mom and Dad. Good, bad, exciting, strange … right? We can imagine it, but Krutwig is living it.
“It’s not as fun as high school or college, that’s for sure,” he wrote, “but in a way I think it’s helped me grow up a lot, become self-sufficient, learn how to be a pro. It’s all much different (especially the no class, which I don’t mind).”
Krutwig during the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Krutwig could’ve returned to Loyola for a “super senior” season, but he knew it would take him a year or two to properly adjust to playing pro ball overseas and didn’t see the sense in prolonging the inevitable. He has found the game in Belgium’s BNXT league to be “way more physical,” which he doesn’t mind. He’s averaging 8.1 point and 5.3 rebounds in league play. His new teammates include guard Jaylen Hands, from UCLA, and forward Phil Cofer, from Florida State, though most of the players are Belgian.
As we messaged, Krutwig and the Giants were in Ukraine as part of FIBA’s Europe Cup. He looked forward to getting back to Antwerp — to his two-bedroom apartment in an area of the city that reminds him of Rogers Park with its array of cuisine choices. He has spots for pasta, for Mediterranean, for varieties of Asian; of course, for Belgian. He pops into McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC, too. Most people there, he finds, speak a good bit of English, which he appreciates.
Also, Jess is there, and thank goodness for her. Krutwig began dating Jessica Mrzlak as a senior at Jacobs High School, where she was a year behind him. She played softball at the University of Missouri-St. Louis before taking a leap to live this European adventure with him.
“It’s a super-great bonus to have someone come out here with you,” he wrote, “and my girlfriend has been great. I really respect what she’s done in leaving her family and friends to come with me and experience this together. Because of visas and stuff, she’s not allowed to work in Belgium, so I know it’s been a little tough for her. But I don’t know if I could do it all alone out here. When you’re in a foreign country all alone, it can be lonely, depressing, etc. I appreciate her a ton.”
Mom Lori and dad Kevin have caught a few Ramblers games live to see the players and parents they also still care about. They stream Giants games online and laugh at the announcers’ interspersal of English phrasing within all that Dutch. Or is it Flemish?
“‘Blah, blah, blah, blah, wide-open three!'” imitated Kevin, at home in Algonquin.
Bears, ‘Blers, Belgium and a baby boy. Lori and Kevin haven’t seen theirs since dropping him at the airport in August. They miss him like crazy, but that’s just feelings. He’s taking care of business and living his life, and those are facts.