Clayton Custer’s Loyola-Chicago Ramblers are in the 2018 Final Four. They’ll face off against Michigan on Saturday, with the winner gaining a shot at the title on Monday.
The Ramblers’ most identifiable representative hasn’t even been a player or coach. Sister Jean is the internet’s go-to personality after every Loyola-Chicago game, and that’s fair. She’s delightful. (Or she’s already jumped the shark, depending on who you talk to.) But somewhat lost in the Ramblers’ Cinderella run is that they have some good players in the middle of it all, too. Custer is the best of them.
Maybe you’ve been paying close attention to Loyola’s run and the name Clayton Custer is already front and center in your mind. But maybe you’ve been too busy buying Sister Jean socks. Either way, you need to know about the man running the show for the Ramblers.
Clayton Custer has been a part of Loyola-Chicago’s
last-second magic this March
Custer hit a late 3-pointer during Loyola-Chicago’s win over Miami that tied the game at 60. Donte Ingram ultimately hit the game-winner to kick-start the Ramblers’ March Madness run.
Custer then hit the game-winner to vault Loyola-Chicago over Tennessee in the second round. His shot bounced around the rim and improbably made it in the hoop.
RAMBLERS WIN!!! 🚨🚨🚨
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018
And here’s Custer assisting on Marques Townes’ clinching 3-pointer against Nevada.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 23, 2018
Custer has been far from the only player behind Loyola’s success. His point totals in the tournament aren’t wow-inducing. He had 14 points against Miami, 10 against Tennessee, 15 against Nevada and 7 in a blowout win over Kansas State. If not eye-popping numbers, he’s been effective producing them.
Custer also hasn’t been alone. Townes, Aundre Jackson, Ben Richardson and others have made the Ramblers a complete team.
Clayton Custer was great all season for the Ramblers
Custer hasn’t just been a March Madness hero. He led Loyola with 13 points and 4.2 assists per game (with 2.1 turnovers).
He won the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award by a convincing margin. Custer garnered 125 total and 40 first-place votes. Missouri State’s Alize Johnson, who came in second place, received 2 first-place votes and 55 total votes.
Clayton Custer faces a hard matchup vs. Michigan’s Zavier Simpson
Oh right, about the game on Saturday. So against Michigan, Custer will go 1-on-1 with Michigan’s sophomore point guard. Zavier Simpson shoots 56 percent on 2-pointers and 31 percent on 3-pointers (and in a weird turn, only 51 percent at the free-throw line). He’s a successful part of Michigan’s offense, but Simpson’s true benefit comes on the Wolverines defense. He’s a stalwart on that end of the floor. Simpson held C.J. Walker and Trent Forrest to 2 and 7 points, respectively, for Florida State. Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks only scored 5 points on 11 shots against Michigan. Rob Gray, Houston’s star scoring point guard, needed 22 shots to score 23 points against Michigan. Custer will have his work cut out for him.
Clayton Custer has evidently still had a hard time making a name for himself
Here’s a transcript from Loyola’s postgame press conference after the Ramblers defeated Kansas State:
BEN RICHARDSON: Clay is going to kill me for sharing this for the second time. But she asked a question about, I think, the fact that we’re not really imposing or people didn’t expect us to get to this point. And it was just a funny story yesterday in the hotel.
CLAYTON CUSTER: It was earlier today.
BEN RICHARDSON: It was earlier today? Yeah, I’m — everything is a blur right now.
But earlier today, we were getting on the elevator after shootaround, and somebody in the hotel, I think it was like a high school kid or something, was asking for a picture with the team, and they said, hey, can you take this, Mister, and they gave the phone to Clay. (Laughter).
He was going to take it, too. He was polite, he was going to take it. I was like, oh, man.
CLAYTON CUSTER: Everybody was laughing at me and stuff.
BEN RICHARDSON: It just shows that it doesn’t matter. It’s a cliché. Coach always says it, but it doesn’t matter the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, and Clay has proven — he doesn’t care. And he’s proven that he belongs on this stage, and he’s the best point guard in my mind in this tournament, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my best friend. I might be biased, but that’s what I believe, and we all believe that, and our belief in each other is what makes us so special.
My guess is Custer won’t have such a hard time getting himself noticed after Saturday, win or lose.