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2014 graduates win conference awards at Loyola Chicago

2014 BVNW graduates Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson were announced as the Missouri Valley Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Tuesday Feb. 27.

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Loyola redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer (13) earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors. Custer leads the Ramblers in scoring, 3-point percentage, assists and steals.

Loyola redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer (13) earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors. Custer leads the Ramblers in scoring, 3-point percentage, assists and steals.

Photo courtesy Steve Woltmann/ Loyola Athletics

Photo courtesy Steve Woltmann/ Loyola Athletics

Loyola redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer (13) earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors. Custer leads the Ramblers in scoring, 3-point percentage, assists and steals.

Gabe Swartz, Editor-in-chief

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2014 Blue Valley Northwest graduate Clayton Custer was named the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference Larry Bird Player of the Year Tuesday. Custer, a redshirt junior at Loyola University Chicago, has led the Ramblers to a 25-5 record overall this year, going 15-3 in conference play.

“It’s a super cool thing to have happen, but it’s also a pretty humbling thing as well just because there’s been such good players in the past that have won it,” Custer said. “I was super excited about it obviously, but I mean it wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t on a really good team. There were people who had better numbers than I did, but it was just the fact that we were on such a good team.”

During the 2017-18 season, Custer is leading the Ramblers in scoring (14.2 ppg), 3-point percentage (.462), assists (106) and steals (42). With Custer in the Loyola lineup the Ramblers are 23-2. After suffering an ankle injury which sidelined him for five games, the Ramblers went 2-3 without Custer in the lineup.

“I think [the injury] was actually a good thing for our team,” Custer said. “It allowed a lot of our younger guys to play big minutes in crucial times.”

Custer becomes the first Loyola player ever to win the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors. Custer joins a list that includes former Creighton stars Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott, as well as former Wichita State star Fred Van Vleet as players who have won the award.

Along with Custer, fellow 2014 graduate and Loyola senior guard Ben Richardson was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year in the MVC. Richardson’s defensive prowess helped the Ramblers lead the conference in defense, holding opponents to 61.6 points per game. The former Husky guard totaled 22 steals and eight blocked shots this season despite missing 10 games with a broken hand. Richardson becomes the first Loyola player to earn MVC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Photo courtesy Steve Woltmann/ Loyola Athletics
Loyola senior guard Ben Richardson (14) took home the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year award. Richardson’s defensive efforts helped the Ramblers hold opponents to a league-low 61.6 points per game this season.

“It means a lot to me,” Richardson said of the Defensive Player of the Year honor. “That’s definitely the type of player that I’ve tried to be on this team. We’ve had a lot of weapons on our team and I’ve just tried to do whatever we need to win and so that ends up as being a defender, and guarding the other team’s best player and giving it my all to help us win, then that’s what I’m going to do. That’s kind of what I’ve embraced this year and it’s good to get some recognition for that.”

Custer was also named First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference. Richardson was named to the All-Defensive MVC Team.

During their four-year career at Blue Valley Northwest, Custer and Richardson went 94-6 and won back-to-back state championships in Kansas Class 6A in 2013 and 2014. After playing together since the third grade, Richardson said the potential to play in the NCAA tournament with Custer would be special.

“It would be unbelievable,” Richardson said. “We talk about it all the time. It’s a dream of mine and a dream of his ever since we were little kids, ever since we could bounce a basketball, that’s been the ultimate goal.”

Loyola enters this week’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular season crown outright. The Ramblers hope to secure an automatic-bid to the NCAA tournament by winning Arch Madness, with their tournament play beginning Friday, March 2 against either Evansville or Northern Iowa.

Photo courtesy Steve Woltmann/ Loyola Athletics
Custer and the Ramblers look to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985.

Despite making it to the NCAA tournament as a freshman at Iowa State, Custer said being able to get to March Madness this year with the Ramblers would be a completely different experience, something he craves.

“It was obviously cool to go to the NCAA tournament my freshman year when I was at Iowa State, but I didn’t have a very big role on that team,” Custer said. “So, to go to the NCAA tournament and actually have a role to play, and actually be able to help in the game and make plays to help our team win, that’ll be an experience that I’ll never forget.”

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2014 graduates win conference awards at Loyola Chicago