Clayton Custer couldn’t idly sit and watch Iowa State lose another overtime game to Kansas. He had to get to the gym.
On Feb. 25, roads were covered in snow, school had been canceled for the next day and Custer couldn’t get Blue Valley Northwest coach Ed Fritz to pick up the phone, so he headed to his coach’s house to pick up the keys. He spent the next hour shooting away his frustration with his mother rebounding.
That is the kind of determination that has allowed Custer to break school records in points, assists and steals as a junior and led to him signing a letter of intent Wednesday to play basketball next season at Iowa State. By NCAA rule, letters can’t be submitted until the beginning of the fall signing period, which is next Wednesday.
“It shows to me that Clay is not afraid to work for his goals,” said Fritz, who described him as the best player he’s coached in 33 years. “People look at him and see a guy that is really talented that can handle the ball. But I see a guy that has put in hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing for his special moment, and there is nobody who prepares better than he does.”
Custer had known for more than a year he would go to Iowa State after making an oral commitment last season to Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones.
“Coach Hoiberg is the most genuine person I’ve ever talked to,” Custer said. “He is also the most competitive guy I’ve ever talked to, and his competitiveness is something you want to be around.”
Custer was among several BV Northwest athletes, including four starters from the Kansas Class 6A defending state champion Huskies who committed Wednesday to play next season in college. Ben Richardson will play for Loyola Chicago; Vince Fritz for Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn.; and David Salach for Washburn.
“The thing that is really neat is that they’re all best friends, they’ve played together a long time and I’ve seen them grow up from first grade all the way through high school,” Fritz said. “To be able to see that hard work pays off and that they can do it in a team setting, that just doesn’t happen very often.”
The Huskies’ Lauren Mertz will play basketball next season at Kansas State after overcoming two ACL tears in her high school career.
“I’ve never been more excited,” Mertz said. “This is the greatest day of my life.”
Grace Mize and Jackson Fuller also signed Wednesday. Mize will play volleyball at William Jewell, and Fuller will play baseball at Lindenwood.