Provo • BYU sophomore Yoeli Childs, like a lot of college basketball players, would like to play professional basketball some day.
That day might be coming sooner than many BYU fans prefer.
The much-improved forward from Bingham High turned in a phenomenal second season in Provo, and fans are looking forward to bigger and better things next season from a team that is not scheduled to lose Childs or fellow star Elijah Bryant, a junior, but theoretically could.
BYU’s season will continue Wednesday when the Cougars take on Stanford in an NIT first-round game. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. MDT on ESPNU.
Childs, who is listed at 6 foot 8, confirmed Monday that he “more than likely” will put his name into the 2018 NBA Draft pool before the NBA early entry deadline April 22.
“Right now I am just thinking about finishing out the season, but with the new rules, it would be dumb not to put your name in and get better, at least,” Childs said. “I will have to see what scouts say and stuff, and take a realistic approach to it, but I’ll probably do it.”
The new rules allow underclassmen to withdraw from the draft before June 11 and preserve their college eligibility if they do not hire an agent.
“Worst-case scenario, you go through the process [of working out for interested teams] and get better, then come back and help your team,” Childs said. “But if a team really likes me, who knows?”
Then-BYU sophomore Eric Mika announced last March to the surprise of many that he was putting his name into the draft after a season statistically superior to the one that Childs has had. Mika, who was 22 at the time, went undrafted and eventually signed to play professionally in Italy, the country where he served his LDS Church mission.
Childs began receiving some feedback from scouts as early as last summer “and it has been pretty cool,” he said. They told him he needed to develop a more consistent outside shot, and he spent the offseason working hard on his midrange and long-range shooting.
After missing both 3-pointers he attempted as a freshman, he is 14 of 44 (32 percent) from deep this season, but only after going 6 of 9 in the recent West Coast Conference tournament. He made six straight 3-pointers at one point and seemed determined to prove that he has improved his range.
“I felt more comfortable shooting them after I made the first couple, and my teammates and coaches trusted me and encouraged me” to keep shooting, he said.
Childs shot 58 percent from the free-throw line as a freshman and has bumped that to 64 percent this season. He is averaging 18 points and 8.6 rebounds this season while sharing the spotlight with Bryant, as opposed to 9.3 points and 8.2 rebounds last season when Mika (20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds) was the focal point of the offense.
Childs’ remarkable improvement has attracted attention from scouts and agents, he acknowledged.
“I have agents and stuff hitting me up and saying certain things, but nothing too serious,” he said. “I try to have them talk to my coaches or other people so I can stay focused on the season. Really I don’t like to think about that kind of stuff when the season is going on.”
Bryant, BYU’s No. 2 scorer, also might choose to test the NBA waters. He is scheduled to graduate in June, having sat out a season after transferring from Elon University, and he might decide he’s never going to be more marketable to the pros than right now, having dealt with knee injuries the past two seasons.
As for Childs, several people close to him say they are not sure what he will decide to do. A lot depends on the feedback he gets after working out for NBA teams, they say.
Childs said if he leaves it won’t be because he hasn’t thoroughly enjoyed his time at BYU. He’s doing well in school after mildly complaining during his freshman year that the academic requirements were shockingly difficult.
“School is pretty hard, but I get solid grades,” he said Monday, noting that his mother, Kara, was a teacher for 20 years. “I got a 3.65 [GPA] last semester. I think I am like most people — I don’t love school. But I am too competitive to get bad grades. So I just get my stuff done.”
All while Cougar fans hope he’s not done at BYU.
BYU AT STANFORD
Where • Maples Pavilion, Stanford, Calif.
Tipoff • 8 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 24-10, Stanford 18-15
Series history • BYU leads 6-2
Last meeting • BYU won 79-77 (Dec. 20, 2014)
About the Cougars • They are making their third straight appearance in the NIT and fifth under coach Dave Rose. … Sophomore forward Yoeli Childs has posted 14 double-doubles and has scored in double figures in all but two of their games. … Junior guard Elijah Bryant has made at least one 3-pointer in 33 of 34 games and is the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 17.9 points per game.
About the Cardinal • Coach Jerod Haase is 32-32 in his second season at the helm and was UAB’s coach in 2016 when the Blazers lost an NIT first-round game at BYU. … They are led in scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg) by 6-foot-8 forward Travis Reid. Guards Dorian Pickens and Daejon Davis and forward KZ Okpala also average in double figures.