Provo • Since choosing to withdraw from the NBA Draft and come back to BYU for his final year, Yoeli Childs hasn’t had the senior season he thought he would have. But he’s had the one he needed.
And it’s one he has loved, even through all of its ups and downs.
Shortly after making the decision to play a fourth year at BYU, a paperwork snafu landed Childs with an NCAA-mandated nine-game penalty at the start of the season. Then, a month after getting back in action, Childs suffered a freak accident during a practice resulting in an open dislocation of his right index finger that had him sidelined for four games.
While he hasn't recovered fully from the injury yet, Childs continues playing through any discomfort, buddy taping his finger during practices and games. He's even started practicing his left-handed shots more.
Through all the adversity he’s faced this season, Childs believes his decision has more than been paid off by this point because of how much fun he’s had.
“It's so good being with these guys and it's so much fun every day competing with them, but I feel like I've grown so much as a player and as a person,” Childs said. “It's amazing that I'm getting my degree … it's been really rewarding to come back. I'm really grateful to be here and I'm grateful for Cougar Nation and all the fans that have embraced me and have embraced this decision and 100% it's been an amazing decision.”
At this point in the season, the Cougars have played slightly more than half of their games without Childs. BYU is 9-2 with Childs, while going 8-5 without him.
Through those 11 games, Childs is averaging 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds and is shooting 61.4% from the field and 56.5% from the 3-point line.
First-year BYU coach Mark Pope said Childs' multiple distractions, like the suspension and finger injury, have made it harder for the senior to play to his full potential, but Childs still has it on his mind.
“He's made great progress,” Pope said. “Things like transition defense, he's made unbelievable progress. His ball screen defense, he's made unbelievable progress. But he's still got unbelievable strides to make for him to get to where he needs to be and earn a draft spot and make a team. And he's working on it. Hopefully, we can get to a real clean bill of health so he can double down on all those things.”
Then there’s also an area Childs has improved exponentially in that won’t show up on any stats sheet.
“I think the one thing and maybe the most important thing that he’s added is that he’s become a monster of a teammate,” Pope said. “He’s become an incredible teammate. Maybe, probably, [that] wasn’t his strength coming into this year and he spent a lot of time just wanting to get done whatever it takes to win. And that’s probably the most important thing he’s going to take with him into camp next year.”
Through all of his struggles this season, Childs said he relied heavily on his wife and his faith.
And it's also all about perspective. Whether you're going through some good times or bad times, it's all about staying positive.
The biggest lesson Childs said he's learned this year is that one can have a plan in life, but there has to be trust that God has a bigger plan. One can want something so bad and want things to happen a certain way so bad, but it's not always the best thing.
There has to be a trust that if someone is living right and working as hard as possible, then the best things will happen for them.
“You never know what's coming in life,” Childs said. “The difficulties I've had this season and the things that have come up that I wasn't expecting, things like that are going to happen for the rest of my life. And it happens in everyone's lives. I think it's just about how you handle it.”
With the 2020 NBA draft less than five months away, and only seven regular season games left, Childs is looking to get the most of what’s left in his collegiate career. And he’d like to see his Cougars win the West Coast Conference tournament and make it back to the NCAA Tournament – a feat BYU hasn’t accomplished since the 2014-15 season.
And he's hoping to continue to make himself the best possible draft prospect along the way.
“I know next year is going to have a ton of adversity,” Childs said. “I’m going to be in a new role, new situation. I could be going all over the country. I could get cut, traded, whatever. But I’ve been able to grow a lot this year and I’m ready for whatever. I feel like I’ve grown that faith where I’m like ‘I’m going to go as hard as I can and what happens, happens.’”
BYU AT PORTLAND
At Chiles Center, Portland, Ore.
Tipoff » Thursday, 8 p.m. MT
TV » KJZZ
Radio » KSL AM 1160 AM, KSL FM 102.7 FM Sirius XM 143
Records » BYU 17-7; Portland 9-15
All-time series » BYU leads 21-2
Last meeting » BYU 96, Portland 70 (Jan. 11, 2020)
About BYU » With BYU’s win over Saint Mary’s, the Cougars are now tied with the Gaels for second in the WCC standing at 6-3 behind Gonzaga (9-0) … Senior guard TJ Haws fit 9 of 15 from the field for 23 points and added five assists in BYU’s win over Saint Mary’s. BYU has shot 50.0% or better in seven-straight games, tied for the second-longest single-season streak in team history. The record of nine games was set at the end of the 1988-89 season.
About Portland » The Pilots are on a seven-game losing streak, which started when Portland came to Provo to play BYU in the first game of the series this season. … In Portland’s 85-61 loss to Santa Clara last Saturday, the Pilots shot 40% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc. … Isaiah White and Tahirou Diabate led the team with 15 and 14 points, respectively. … White leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.3 points this season.