There was a moment when lifelong friends and current Loyola teammates Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson said to each other, “Well, this is it. We had a great run.”
Feel free to imagine it was similar to the final scene of “Superbad,” without the third-wheel, McLovin dynamic.
After winning two state titles together at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas, Richardson was headed to Loyola and Custer to Iowa State.
“We always thought about playing together in college,” Custer said. “But then like different schools recruit you, different schools need different things. Obviously, we went our separate ways.”
Custer got his college recruiting out of the way early. He couldn’t say no to Fred Hoiberg, then the head coach at Iowa State.
“Hoiberg was at the school a lot. He recruited me really hard,” Custer said. “That’s why I committed there. He was there in the morning when we’d have early practice. He was there for games. He was there all the time. I just really appreciate everything he did for me.”
Was there ever a time when Hoiberg and Loyola coach Porter Moser sat next to each other in the bleachers at a Blue Valley Northwest game, talking about the respective guards they were recruiting? Actually, no, though Hoiberg admits spending plenty of time at the school.
“I would hit the 6 a.m. practices so I could get the heck out of there,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what I liked to do in recruiting.”
So the two friends packed up their stuff, exchanged a couple of bro hugs, maybe, and went their separate ways. Custer has nothing bad to say about the year he spent playing for Hoiberg. As it turned out, it was Hoiberg’s last year with Iowa State before leaving to coach the Bulls.
“I had a good year there,” Custer said. “I loved being in Ames for that year. It was a good experience for me. I had a blast. I had a lot of friends there. I loved Hoiberg, I think Hoiberg is a great coach.
“It didn’t end up being the right fit for me. Monte Morris was only a year older than me, and he was one of the best point guards in the country. I just didn’t want to wait until my senior year to play. I enjoyed my time in Ames. I feel like I was supposed to go there for that year and meet the people that I met there.”
Custer and Richardson kept in touch, but obviously both players had their hands full trying to navigate their freshman year at college.
“He’s just the type of guy that’s always a competitor and wants to be making a difference and being a part of the team,” Richardson said. “I could just always tell there was frustration that he wasn’t getting the opportunity he wanted.”
Custer said after deciding to transfer, he chose between Loyola and Creighton. Moser paid him a visit in Ames, and also checked in on his family in Overland Park. Toss in the chance to reunite with Richardson and Custer was sold.
Custer, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, had to sit out a season as a transfer, so he will be back for another year at Loyola while Richardson graduates. So after the Final Four, they can probably say goodbye once again to their time as basketball teammates, but who knows what’s in store?
“Since we were in third or fourth grade, we’ve been best of friends,” Custer said. “I know we have a huge group of best friends back at home. Now that we’ve been living together for four years, I can’t say that I’m closer with anybody else in this world. So it’s amazing.”