Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Led by reigning MVC Player of the Year Clayton Custer, Loyola looks to stay on track

Photo Credit: George Walker- Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

2017-18 Record: 32-6, 15-3 Missouri Valley Conference
2017-18 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Final Four
Coach: Porter Moser, 121-111 (.522) at Loyola-Chicago, eighth season

Key losses:

Donte Ingram, Sam Richardson, Aundre Jackson, Cameron Satterwhite

Key additions:

Aher Uguak (Transfer from New Mexico), Tate Hall (JC transfer)

Notable Games:

Nov. 19-21 (Fort Myers Tip-Off)
Nov. 27 vs Nevada
Dec. 8 vs Maryland (Baltimore)
Jan. 12 vs Illinois State
Jan. 15 vs Valparaiso

With the pageantry and unexpected national notoriety in their rear-view mirrors, the 2018-19 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers’ groundwork is being put together brick by brick.

Gone are cornerstones Sam Richardson and Donte Ingram, who played pivotal roles in Loyola-Chicago’s unexpected run to the Final Four last season.

However, it is not about what you lose, but how a team can adapt to change. With a combination of incoming freshmen and transfers, highlighted by Aher Uguak, who sat out last season after leaving New Mexico, Loyola-Chicago will look to incorporate more post players into the rotation after relying heavily on a four-guard system.

The cover was not left bare as Loyola-Chicago returns a pair of key parts from last season in Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Clayton Custer and Marques Townes.

Ramblers coach Porter Moser looks to keep things even-keeled as a new leaf turns and wants Custer and others to stay hungry and humble.

“The kind of thing coach [Moser] emphasizes is that we are still chasing,” Custer said. “We don’t really have the mindset that we are at the top of the mountain yet. We still have to have a chip on our shoulder and only had one good year and need to string together plenty of good ones in a row. We want to make Loyola a program where people will talk about us all the time.”

With several practices in the books, Townes knows complacency can’t be tolerated as progress is key to similar achievements from 2017-18.

“We still have a lot to learn and need to start getting better,” Townes said. We are only six to seven practices in and there will be mistakes made, but we have to get better by watching film and attacking. We have an exhibition game in two weeks [against Winona State] and we have step things up.”

Sophomore center Cameron Krutwig stepped up as a freshman with the ability to use his stocky size to cause matchup problems and execution in the paint from five-feet or less on offense with 10.5 points per game.

Krutwig knows in order to take the next step to becoming an all-around player that the work must be put in off the court. In the Ramblers’ conditioning program, Krutwig has dropped 10 pounds in the offseason in hopes to become more agile on the court.

“I have been focusing a lot on my body fat and trying to turn it into muscle,” Krutwig said. “We also talked a lot about mid-range shooting because I can’t be one-dimensional and have worked a lot on my right hand so I can be better with handles in the post.”

The addition of Valparaiso to the MVC should boost Loyola-Chicago’s in-conference strength of schedule, along with potential challengers in Illinois State and Southern Illinois. The Ramblers also elevated their non-conference slate highlighted by a Sweet 16 rematch from last season against Nevada at Gentile Arena and a road game against Maryland.

Moser proclaimed that the Ramblers’ resume’ will be well-rounded come the month of March if everything works out in their favor.

“When it comes down to March, what are the good wins in the Missouri Valley and some will in league play,” Moser said. “The Valley is going to have four or five teams in that top 75 quadrant one level.”