Rambling to the Tourney: Dreams carry from Kansas to Dallas for Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson

Loyola guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer take part in a workout at American Airlines Arena before their NCAA Tournament opener vs Miami on March 14th.

DALLAS – There ‘s nothing better than a good “Dream Come True” story during March Madness. They’re everywhere to be found – from the 16th seed to the first.

Some might consider it hyperbole, but for many the chance to compete on College Basketball’s biggest stage is something special, and perhaps the highlight of a player’s entire career. “March Madness” is the dream come true for so many who take a floor when they’re young.

“Things I remember is being on my driveway at night with the light on that my dad installed and shooting last seconds shots and having my neighbors complain to my parents that I can’t be dribbling the ball late at night,” said Loyola guard Ben Richardson of getting his first chance to play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday when Loyola opens up play against Miami in Dallas.  “It’s things like that, you know, I tried to reflect on as we got here and soak it in.”

So is someone who was having similar dreams growing up in Overland Park, Kansas that will be wearing the same uniform on Thursdays afternoon. Making it to the “Big Dance” was a dream of Clayton Custer’s as well, and it’s one that he pursued with Richardson growing up.

Both players were friends since they were three years old and enjoyed standout careers at Blue Valley Northwest High School. Richardson went to Loyola from the start of college while Custer began at Iowa State before joining the Ramblers in 2016.

“It’s been amazing. Me and Ben have been through so much together in our lives. We know everything that’s going on in each other’s lives. We talk about problems that are going on in each other’s lives,” said Custer of his friendship with Richardson. “Through this basketball stuff, it’s even brought us closer. It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to do this, it’s a dream come true. I feel like not a lot of people get to do that. We definitely feel blessed.

“We sometimes sit in our hotel room and talk about like ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is going on right now.'”The text and our group chat in our high school and stuff and we’re in the same group chat. So everybody is excited for both of us.”

Both had their part in making this a reality in 2017-2018, with each starting full-time for the Missouri Valley Conference champions. Custer was the league’s Most Valuable Player, averaging 13.4 points per game while also dealing out a team-high 119 assists. Richardson averaged 6.7 points per game and was second on the group in assists with 87.

It’s a backcourt chemistry built over time that’s made a significant impact on Loyola’s first NCAA Tournament season since 1985.

“Sometimes someone will say something and I’ll know exactly what’s going on in Clay’s mind because we just give each other a look and we’ve got a lot of chemistry in all aspects,” said Richardson of Custer.

There is a time limit to the chemistry on the court since Richardson’s eligibility runs out at the end of this year with Custer still having one more season as redshirt junior. As was their goal as kids in Overland Park, the goal is to keep it going as long as they can.

“We’re gonna work our hardest and hopefully we play six more games,” said Custer – who will do so with a familiar face by his side the entire time.