Blue Valley Northwest High School went undefeated at 25-0 this season, and won the school’s first Class 6A Kansas State Championship title in boys basketball. The team was ranked No. 1 in Kansas and No. 19 in the United States by USA Today.
|Kyle Harrison, Ben Richardson & Clay Custer|
And four of the starters have been playing together for nine years. How can that be possible if they’ve only been in high school for three years?
It happens that 6-foot-1 guard Clay Custer, 6-foot-3 guard/forward Vince Fritz, 5-foot-10 guard Kyle Harrison and 6-foot-3 forward Ben Richardson have played together since the third grade for Huskies’ coach Ed Fritz.
Harrison is Fritz’s neighbor and Richardson was looking for a team to play on.
“I was on another team in second grade and they kept beating us,” Custer says. “At the end of the season, my dad talked to Coach Fritz and I started playing with them in the third grade.”
Custer is the most decorated player of the four. He was honored twice as a top-five player in Kansas by both the Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle. Richardson was a first-team All-Class 6A pick while Fritz was a third-team selection and Harrison made the honorable mention list.
The closest game they had against a Kansas school was 10 points, and the Huskies beat BV West 46-29 to win the school’s first state championship in the sport.
“It makes it more special to win games with each other,” Custer says. “We all know all the work we have put in together.”
And winning state was extra special.
“Best feeling I’ve ever had,” he says. “With a minute left, I knew we had it won and I couldn’t hold in a smile.”
Richardson says, “It makes the whole game easier. When we have adversity, we can deal with it easier.”
“We have been together that long, and we have built a strong friendships between us,” Harrison says. “We are like brothers now.”
“It is remarkable,” Vince Fritz says. “Growing up together as best friends and winning a state championship. We accomplished one of our goals for the players and my dad. It is the most unbelievable feeling.”
Coach Fritz says they have become better players because they care so much about their teammates.
“Defensively they are so solid,” he says. “They cover for each other and take pride in being able to stop the other team from scoring.”
There was even a little superstition within the group.
“I had a buzz cut, and when it came time for a haircut, I decided to keep it growing because we were undefeated,” says Harrison, who did get a haircut after the state championship game.
Next year will be the last year they will play basketball together, and they know expectations will be high for the Huskies when the season starts in November.
“We didn’t let the pressure bother us this year,” Custer says. “We always strive to forget the last game we played.”
“We need dedication,” Vince Fritz says. “We need more hard work in the off-season. We need to keep a good mindset.”
Custer is playing baseball this spring while the others will be working on basketball. Harrison will also be getting ready for football where he plays safety.
Statistically, Custer is the leader of the four and he is also the player who handles the ball the most from his point-guard position.
“I have to understand who’s playing well,” he says. “I have to know when to score and when to set up the other people to score."