DALLAS — Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer are on the same wavelength. Their teammates joke that they are always one step ahead of them.
For example, Richardson dished the ball to Custer for the game-tying three-pointer against Miami on Thursday. Richardson knew Custer would be there in the corner.
That kind of chemistry doesn’t develop over one season. In fact, it took more than a decade.
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Richardson and Custer, who are both from Overland Park, Kansas, joined the same basketball team in third grade and have played with one another basically ever since. The only time they were apart was at the beginning of their collegiate careers, when Richardson went to Loyola and Custer played at Iowa State.
Together, the two only know how to win.
Custer fondly remembers winning the United States Specialty Sports Association national championship at Spiece Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when the two were in fourth and sixth grade.
“Those teams were always so fun because we were just kids from suburbs of Kansas City,” Custer said. “And we were going out on a national stage and beating a lot of good teams.”
At Blue Valley Northwest High School, Richardson and Custer played in four consecutive Kansas Class 6A state championship games. They finished their high school careers with titles in 2013 and 2014.
Custer said playing in the NCAA Tournament with his best friend is “a dream come true.” Richardson shared the same sentiment, calling the opportunity “special.”
“I don’t think there’s any way for it to set in now, but you know, we’ve had countless lifelong memories already,” Richardson said. “This is going to go at the top of that list. We’re not done yet. We want to make some more big ones.”
Custer, who has another year of eligibility, said it’s sad to think that any game could be his last with Richardson, who is a senior.
“I’m glad that this is the way we’re going to go out, playing in an NCAA Tournament,” he said. “So I just want to win [Saturday] and win as many games as we can so I don’t have to put an end to this part of our lives. [I] want to keep this going for Ben.”
Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield is fairly familiar with Loyola.
In high school, Schofield, who grew up in Zion, played against several Ramblers, including Donte Ingram and Cameron Krutwig.
More than four years ago, Loyola coach Porter Moser recruited Schofield, but Schofield decided to take his talents elsewhere.
Schofield said he has a lot of respect for what Moser has done with the program.
“I’m proud of what they’ve been doing,” Schofield said. “Having been recruited by them and seeing what they’ve built, it’s amazing.”
Tennessee forward Derrick Walker is playing for bragging rights.
Walker’s cousin, Earl Peterson, played two seasons for Loyola, from 2014 to ’16.
Walker said he briefly spoke with Peterson after he found out the Volunteers would be playing the Ramblers in the second round. Walker plans to tease Peterson if Tennessee wins.
“I get to talk-trash to him after the game and let him know we beat his team,” Walker said.
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