I had the chance to head down to Wells Fargo Arena this weekend to check out 2014 Cyclone commit Clayton Custer and his Blue Valley Northwest squad take on West Des Moines Valley in the Heartland Shootout. It was clear that Custer is the type of guard not seen at Iowa State in a number of years.
The program listed Custer at 6-foot-1 and he seemed to be right at that mark, if not a shade shorter. In warm-ups, it was easy to see Custer was comfortable shooting the three out to NBA range. He made eight in a row at one point from the NBA distance. His shot has good fundamentals and fluidity. Much like the rest of the game, his shot has a nice rhythm to it.
When the game started, Custer got involved right away. He drove to the basket to draw a foul and converted two free throws, then he crossed over his defender and got to the rim for an easy lay-up. Interestingly enough, he wouldn’t score the rest of the first quarter and that is what stood out most. Custer was incredibly patient within the offense. The headliner for Valley was Peter Jok, a 2013 Iowa Hawkeye signee – and the dichotomy between the two was a fun subplot. Unlike Custer, Jok made a point to single-handedly try to carry Valley. Jok had 15 first quarter points and it appeared he may win the game by himself.
Meanwhile Custer was content to be a cog within the offense. Blue Valley ran a lot of set offense and he facilitated seamlessly. Everything was a simple pass, there wasn’t a whole lot of flash to his game. However, the few times his team needed him to make a play he would. Custer showed a very effective crossover in both directions and a good change-of-pace hesitation that allowed him to get past his defender. Once by his defender, his first look was to set his teammates up for wide-open looks. He rarely went to the rim unless there was a clear advantage, he is not the type that will be able to use his athleticism to finish in a crowd above the rim. But he uses angles and pace to get easy looks for others and that will translate extremely well at the next level.
You hear the phrase, "old-school" thrown around often. It is cliche, yet seems to fit Custer’s game. He hit a few pull-ups in the midrange and was never out-of-control, he plays with a cerebral rhythm that may be difficult to appreciate at first, but grows on you as the game wears on. Valley led for almost the entirety of the game, but Custer’s Blue Valley team never panicked and just chipped away.
Defensively, Custer was solid. He doesn’t seem to be a guy who will pester somebody 94 feet and create oodles of turnovers, but he was able to stay in front of his man when he wanted. In high school it is hard to get a great gauge on how defense will translate to college, Custer played kind of a free-safety role to help out on Jok, so it was tough to see him in any meaningful on-ball situations. He did take a couple key charges on help-side defense in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory for his team. Will he be able to lock-up jet-quick guards at the next level is the biggest question-mark, but he has two years to add strength and improve his quickness.
Jok ended the game with 31 points, but really had to force things in the fourth quarter and it came back to bite Valley.
Custer finished with 15 points and converted some critical free-throws down the stretch to ice the game. He did have a handful of turnovers early in the contest, but really settled down as the game went on and led his team to a 55-51 win.
It is tough to find a good comparison of Custer’s game. He has a lead-guard mentality that really hasn’t been seen in Ames for a number of years. Older Cyclone fans will think Jacy Holloway is an apt comparison, but I think Custer has a bit more in his offensive arsenal than Jacy did. He is a unique player that Iowa State fans will really appreciate once he gets on campus and should be able to fill a role that is paramount for any successful team.