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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BYU's Yoeli Childs poses for pictures at media day in Provo on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018.

PROVO — Chances are this could be Yoeli Childs’ final season in a BYU uniform.

Last spring, the All-West Coast Conference forward explored his options and entered his name into the National Basketball Association draft before ultimately deciding to return for his junior season.

While the Cougars are thrilled that he’s back on the roster, what is Childs’ expectations for this campaign, which tips off Nov. 6 at No. 7 Nevada?

“The mentality is to play this season like I’m trying to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft,” he said. “That’s kind of a scary thing for fans to hear. It sounds like I’m thinking ahead of this year and I want to be done. But that’s not it at all. That’s the mentality you have to have to get to the level you want to play at. I want to play in the NBA more than just about anything. My teammates and coaches know that and want that for me.

“The most important thing right now is winning games. I want to win every single game. I want to be a competitor,” continued Childs, who married his wife, Megan, a Utah Valley University volleyball player, during the summer. “I want to play for my teammates and play every single game like it’s my last. I want to go to the NCAA Tournament and have an unbelievable year. I’m always going to do what’s best for my family and myself. That might be coming back for my senior year. We don’t know yet. I’ll have to see how the year goes and see how I play and see if we make the tournament and how far we go. All that stuff goes into it. I can’t say for sure if it’s my last year or not yet.”

As a sophomore, Childs averaged 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while hitting 54 percent of his shots from the floor and 64 percent from the free-throw line. He also blocked 63 shots.

Childs showed major improvement from his freshman season, when he averaged 9.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

While testing the NBA waters last spring, Childs received a lot of feedback to know what he needs to do to become an NBA player, such as becoming a consistent outside shooter.

"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 nearly six months ago. “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.”

Childs knocked down 6 of 7 3-pointers in the WCC Tournament last March against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, and he poured in a career-high 33 points against the Gaels. During the offseason, he has continued to work on his outside shot.

“I want to take a similar jump (like between his freshman and sophomore years). I always want to get better. I’m someone who is hungry. I’m always my own biggest critic. I want to be the best player that I can be,” Childs said. “I’ve taken a lot of steps to improve my game. I’m a lot better on the perimeter. I’m a much better shooter. I think I can help our team in a lot of ways on the offensive end by spacing the floor and on the defensive end by switching ball screens and guarding multiple positions.”

BYU coach Dave Rose said Childs’ ceiling remains high.

“There’s a lot of room for Yoeli to continue to grow. He had a really good freshman year and he got a lot better between his freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “He had a solid sophomore season. Anytime you’re first-team all-league in whatever league you’re playing in … he was the second-leading rebounder in the league and one of the top four scorers in the league. With him returning, the issue isn’t to mark that spot or to better that. It’s to improve your overall game.”

Don’t be surprised to see Childs more on the perimeter.

“You’ll see him with the ball in his hands a lot more,” Rose said. “You saw that from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He had the ball in his hands his freshman year on the block. He had the ball in his hands a lot last year on the perimeter, making plays on the wing and at the high post. You’ll see him with the ball in his hands at the 3-point line and play like he did in that against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga (in the WCC tournament). I look forward to seeing him continue to progress. He plays hard and he practices hard. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a winner. He wants to win. That’s why he plays. He’s a good guy to have on your team.”

“I think what we’re trying to do is be a little more position-less,” Childs said. “You have to be able to make decisions. We have several forwards to come off ball screens and make the right reads.”

Childs will be the marked man on opposing teams’ scouting reports, especially now that Elijah Bryant, who averaged a team-high 18.2 points last season, has moved on.

“He’ll be No. 1 or 2 on everyone’s scouting report as far as who they need to stop. That will be his challenge,” Rose said of Childs. “How is he going to respond to that? How has his game grown to where he can continue on the pace that he’s on and not let defensive game plans and coaching strategies stop him from being able to continue to be successful?”

Will this be Childs’ final season at BYU? If he performs like he did last year — or better — it likely will be.

For now, Childs plans to cherish every moment this season. Cougar fans have expressed their appreciation for giving them at least one more year.

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“Everyone just walks up to me and says, ‘Thanks so much for coming back.’ Honestly, I have the mentality that I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back here,” Childs said. “A lot of people look at going to a school as, ‘They’re so lucky to have me.’ But I feel like I’m lucky to be here at BYU. I’m blessed to have the fan base that we have, to have the teammates and coaches that I have that care about me. More than anything, I’m the one who’s grateful. I’m grateful to be here with my brothers and to play for an amazing coach and amazing fans.”