Rambling to the Final Four: From hotel to arena, Richardson was picture-perfect on Saturday
ATLANTA – The sign of the times was actually a phone in the hand.
That’s what happens in 2018 when something amazing happens. People make sure they see the accomplishments with their own two eyes, as long as it’s on a square or rectangular screen. Enjoying in the moment is just as important, or maybe even a little less, than making sure you can share or reflect on it in the present.
That was true before and after Loyola’s game against Kansas State in Atlanta, one that would determine if their best tournament run in 55 years would end at Philips Arena or in San Antonio at the Final Four. In many ways, the story of a person trying to capture the moment with a phone wouldn’t just represent today’s culture, but also the subject of the photograph.
Too bad there was some apprehension to tell the story of this social moment.
“Clay is going to kill me for sharing this for the second time,” said Ramblers guard Ben Richardson when getting ready to tell the story about his teammate and childhood friend Clayton Custer in the postgame news conference, doing so first during a TV interview after the game.
“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,” said Richardson, referring to Custer. “He was going to take it, too. He was polite, he was going to take it. I was like, oh, man.”
Not exactly a smooth move by the fan to ask for a picture with the Ramblers and then handing the camera to the player who won the Larry Bird Award for Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.
“Everybody was laughing at me and stuff,” said Custer when he heard the story for a second time in about a half hour at Philips Arena.
Not that he was fazed by it – and neither was the rest of the team. Getting underestimated is as much a tournament tradition as the “Cinderella” team, and in many ways the incident represented what this Loyola team was all about.
“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,” said Richardson. “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.”
So is the way which a new player has made it happen in each game of the tournament. Not only did Richardson have the best story of the Ramblers’ Elite Eight victory over the Wildcats, but he also had the best game, scoring a game-high 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, with six of those being three-pointers.
It was not only his best game scoring-wise of the tournament (He had 14 points in the previous three games) but also his season-high – a far cry from his average of seven the entire season.
“I’ve got to credit my teammates for finding me. That’s what’s so special about our team. We’ve got so many unselfish guys, and we have so many weapons,” said Richardson. “And like we’ve been saying, it can be anybody’s night. We’ve shown that so far this tournament. Each one of these guys has had a big night.”
But on the biggest one so far, no one was better than him, whether in production or narrative.