Loyola’s Custer Rises To National Fame
They swarm Clayton Custer wherever he goes on the Loyola of Chicago campus. His fellow students want to be around him, talk to him, tell their parents and brothers and sisters that they have met a new American rock star. For the first time in his life, he’s being asked to sign autographs. This is a guy who hardly anyone had heard of until two weeks ago; now’s he’s become part of college basketball’s national conversation.
Custer is the star point guard on the Loyola of Chicago men’s basketball team that will be playing in the Final Four this weekend in San Antonio against Michigan.
Wherever he goes, people want to talk to him. The press from all over the country ask him questions about where he grew up, how he became a star of this team that hardly anyone was paying attention to until two weeks ago.
This is his time. This is his moment. Never in his life has he been so sought after. The number of Tweets and emails he’s been getting while his team has been on this March Madness run has been incalculable and non-stop.
Three weeks ago he lived in relative obscurity. Now he’s part of a basketball team that has energized and stunned a nation of basketball fans by making it to the Final Four.
He can shoot it. He can pass it. He can dribble it. In the game against Michigan Saturday, it will be his steadying influence that will be key to keep this team from being overwhelmed by the grand stage with tens of millions of people watching. If Custer remains smooth, his team will be able to do the same.
Custer is all of the sudden a central figure on college basketball’s biggest stage. This is Broadway and he’s a lead actor. All eyes will be on him and how he performs.
Will this sudden launch into celebrity status affect his mind and ability to play good basketball? Will it be too much?
This is what’s thinking:
“I can’t believe I’m playing in the Final Four. I never thought this was possible. How am I supposed to react to all of this? Do I have the mental toughness to play my game and not get too nervous? I didn’t see myself ever playing in front of these many people with the stakes as high as they are. Can I take this? Am I up for this? What happens if we win on Saturday? Then we’ll be in the championship game.
“I don’t even want to think about that. It’s so far away. Playing on Monday night for the national championship would be a little scary and surreal. The experts don’t think we’re going to beat Michigan. But they didn’t think we would be here and we are. I’m not so sure the experts really understand this Loyola of Chicago basketball team. How could they? We’re not supposed to be here.
“But we are. Clayton Custer is here, ready to play some ball. Everybody wants to watch me play.
“That includes Michigan’s team. Watch me, Michigan. Check me out. See if I’m all they say I am, or something else, something less. Or perhaps more. See if I can handle the pressure.
“Can you, Michigan? Can you deal with the pressure? Can you handle Clayton Custer? Do you want my autograph?”
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