There’s two big elephant’s room going into the season for Loyola this year, so let’s address them up front. Porter Moser is gone, he took the head coaching job at Oklahoma and assistant coach Drew Valentine steps in as the new head coach. The other is that Cameron Krutwig is gone and you’re not going to replace him. That aside, let’s take a look at what could be a really good Loyola team this year.
Drew Valentine was basically the defensive coordinator for this Loyola squad over the past few years. Before Loyola, Valentine spent two seasons at his alma mater, Oakland under Greg Kampe, who enters his 38th season at the the helm of Oakland and is known for his ability to adapt his style to his evolving rosters. He then spent two seasons as a grad manager at Michigan State under Tom Izzo. Add in Porter Moser and those are some great coaches to have learned under. He’s definitely one of the next young coaches at only 30-years old. And yes, he’s also the brother of Denzel Valentine.
Key Newcomers: Ryan Schwieger (Princeton), Chris Knight (Dartmouth)
Schweiger comes in from Princeton, where injuries prevented him from taking the leap to an All-Conference caliber wing. At 6’7, he adds another long wing to a roster flooded with them. Knight also comes in from the Ivy League in an attempt to fill the shoes of Krutwig. He’s known as a talented passer and crafty finisher. In his last eight games of 2020 (the Ivy League didn’t play last year), Knight averaged 19.5 pts, 8.1 rebs and shot 72.6%. He is a very intriguing transfer for the Ramblers.
The offense starts with Braden Norris, but they did play through Krutwig almost every possession. That being said, Norris isn’t the only guy capable of creating plays for this offense. Keith Clemons and Marquise Kennedy are both capable ball-handler as well.
I mentioned Schwieger already as a scoring option on the wing and a smart player. Tate Hall is a plus defender who dipped in shooting last year, but he could definitely bounce back this year.
Finally, we get to Lucas Williamson. He’s definitely a leader, he was on that Final Four team from 2018. He’s always been an elite defender, but last year his offense took a step too and forced opponents to spread out more; opening up the lane more for Krutwig.
Aher Uguak is a great role player for the Ramblers. He’s a great defender and is as efficient as they come on offense (led Missouri Valley in FG% last year). He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact.
I mentioned Chris Knight coming in from Dartmouth, that should help after losing Krutwig. Tom Welch and Jacob Hutson round out the frontcourt. Hutson played spelled Krutwig last year and was able to get his feet wet. At 6’10, he has intriguing upside and I’m curious how Valentine will use him. Welch was key player off the bench two years ago and again last season. He’s efficient and he can go for double-digits off the bench and stretch the floor.
Loyola-Chicago Depth Chart
The loss of Krutwig will hurt, but there’s a lot returning for new head coach Drew Valentine and another NCAA Tournament is definitely not out of reach.