ST. LOUIS — For the third time in the past four years, a Loyola Chicago student-athlete has earned the Larry Bird Trophy, presented to the MVC men’s basketball Player of the Year. Senior Cameron Krutwig of Loyola joins former Ramblers Clayton Custer (2018) and Marques Townes (2019) as Loyola players to earn the league’s top individual honor, as announced by the league office today.
This season Krutwig helped the Ramblers to a school-record 16 wins in Conference play, a regular-season crown, and a No. 20 national ranking. Krutwig will graduate as one of the most accomplished players to wear a Loyola uniform. The 6-foot-9 senior center recently became the only player in school history to rank in the program’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists.
A year ago, he became the first player in the tradition-rich Missouri Valley Conference to finish a season ranked in the top five in scoring (15.1), rebounding (8.1), assists (4.2) and field goal percentage (.563). He is the only player in Loyola history and just the fourth in MVC history with at least 1,500 points, 800 rebounds and 300 assists. Last December, he became the first Rambler in program history to record a triple-double when he totaled 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over Vanderbilt.
The First Team all-MVC team features three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. The honorees on the league’s first-team unit hail from the top four teams in the league standings (Loyola, Drake, Missouri State and Indiana State).
Voting was conducted by coaches, sports information directors and a media panel (voters could not vote for their own student-athlete.) Including this year, 0 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 17 juniors (seven of whom repeated) and 33 seniors have won the award (spanning 1969-2021).
The league’s top newcomer is ShanQuan “Tank” Hemphill of Drake. The graduate transfer from Green Bay has been instrumental in Drake’s historic season. The Bulldogs set a program record by winning their first 18 games, and Drake has also won 20 or more games for the third-straight season, marking just the second time in program history the Bulldogs have had three-straight 20-win seasons. Tank is just the fifth Drake player to earn Newcomer of the Year honor, joining Lewis Lloyd (1980), David Miller (1986), Curt Smith (1993), and B.J. Windhorst (1995).
Krutwig’s teammate — Lucas Williamson — is the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Williamson anchors the Rambler defense, which has been one of the top teams in the nation in scoring defense over the last four seasons. Loyola finds itself among the NCAA’s best again this year, ranking first in the country in that category, and the Ramblers also lead the MVC in field goal percentage defense. Williamson is the second Rambler to earn MVC Defensive Player of the Year honors (Ben Richardson, 2018). The league began selecting a Defensive Player of the Year in 1989.
The league’s Freshman of the Year is Bowen Born of UNI. The MVC began selecting a Freshman of the Year award in 1986, and he’s the fourth Panther to win the honor, joining Eric Coleman (2005), Seth Tuttle (2012) and AJ Green (2019). Tuttle and Green both later earned the league’s Larry Bird Trophy. Born has started every game for UNI this year and averages 11.4 points per game while connecting on a team-best 45 three-point tries. His 55 assists are third-best on the team.
The MVC also selects a “Sixth Man Award” recipient, and for the first time it goes to a Drake student-athlete. The honor is presented to the league’s top reserve player (one who has started fewer than 25 percent of his team’s games – in all games or in conference-only play). Sophomore Joseph Yesufu enters the State Farm MVC Tournament as the team’s top scorer in four of their past five contests. Following an injury to starting point guard Roman Penn, Yesufu responded by scoring 32 points and 36 points in back-to-back games. His 36 points are the most scored by an MVC player this season, while his back-to-back 30-point games are the first by a Bulldog since 1988-89.
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