PROVO — For BYU forward Yoeli Childs, the process of declaring for the NBA draft but not hiring an agent provided him with valuable feedback on what he needs to do to enhance his game.
Childs, who announced Monday night he had decided to take his name out of the draft, believes he can take more strides toward his goal of playing professionally by returning to the Cougars next season.
“I prayed about it, thought about it a lot. Being a part of BYU basketball is special,” said the sophomore, who averaged 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds and earned All-West Coast Conference first-team honors last season.
“The coaches care about you," he continued. "That was the biggest thing throughout this whole process. The coaches were very supportive of me. It was almost like, ‘Go see if you can do it. Don’t even think about coming back. Go do the workouts, go all-in and try to live your dream and then we’ll talk about it.’ I thought it was amazing.
"I talked to coach (Dave) Rose a lot. I respect him so much because he’s a guy that cares about you as a person, not just what’s going to win games for the team. He cares about you and your future. Knowing that and knowing the type of person that he is I felt I could come back to school and, through working on the things that teams want me to work on, he’s going to give me the green light to do those things as long as I’m capable of doing them.”
During the past month, Childs worked out for the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets. They projected that he probably wouldn’t be drafted and counseled him to return to school. Other teams, Childs said, also told him he likely wouldn’t be drafted but advised him to turn pro because he would get better faster.
But Childs figures he can improve in Provo.
“That’s the best part about coming back for me. The things that I need to do this year to prove that I can play in the NBA and the things I need to do this year for us to be very successful are the same things,” he said. “Through meeting with coach Rose, the things he wants me to do for the team are the exact things that NBA teams want to see. So I think it’s a perfect fit.”
Childs has specific aspects of his game that he is working on.
“My 3-point shot has gotten a lot better, even since the end of the season. I’m a lot more confident,” he said. “Something that’s been big is working on the NBA 3, shooting from there. Now when I step to a college 3, it’s like a mid-range jumper. After doing that, I think every college player should work on NBA 3s Teams want to see me shoot the ball more consistently. They think athletically that I’m a guy that can guard multiple positions, someone that can play hard and get rebounds. They want to see me be able to stretch the floor better than I can right now.”
In addition to improving his skills, Childs is excited about playing with his Cougar teammates and taking care of some unfinished business.
“I think it’s going to be the best team that I’ve played on in the last three years by far,” he said. “I think we’ll win the conference tournament and we’re going to the NCAA Tournament because the guys we have coming back are older and more mature. We’re no longer a young team This is the year where it can all come together and we can do something special.”
Childs is looking forward to playing again with guard Nick Emery, who plans to return next season after withdrawing from school prior to last season.
“Nick’s a great guy. I love Nick,” he said. “I’m excited to play with him. He’s an elite player, especially offensively. I knew whether he was coming back or not that we would have a very good team.”
During the process of declaring for the draft, Childs talked extensively to Eric Mika, who left BYU early last year and is currently playing professionally in Italy.
Childs said foreign teams reached out to him and made him offers. “But that’s not a first option,” he explained. “That was kind of a Plan C.”
Guard Elijah Bryant also declared for the draft but he hired an agent, ending his BYU career.
“Eli is always going to be like a brother to me. We’ll always stay in contact and we’ll always be close. We really built a bond this year,” Childs said. “Our situations are very different. He’s going to be 23 by the time of the draft. He’s getting his degree and he’s married. He’s at that point in his life where he’s ready to be a pro. In his situation, I don’t know how much good for himself and his future coming back would do.”
Childs said the process of declaring for the draft has taken some of the guesswork out of preparing for a professional career.
“It’s awesome. I think every player should put their name into the draft if they had a good year because instead of wondering what NBA teams think ... you can go in and you can get the answer key,” he said. “It’s like getting the answer key before a test. You know exactly what you need to do. It’s motivation to work on those things.”