BYU freshman forward Yoeli Childs is known for big, rim-shaking dunks on the basketball court. But not long ago he participated in a different type of dunk. The 18-year-old big man was recently baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Childs, an ESPN Top-100 recruit coming out of Bingham High School, had offers to play at a number of different universities. He chose to come to BYU, a school owned by the LDS church, as a non-LDS recruit. After his commitment, Childs began investigating the LDS church.
“It was a super cool experience,” Childs said of his conversion. “Growing up in Utah, I’ve been around LDS people all the time.”
Childs had been attending LDS church services and reading the Book of Mormon, but a major catalyst for Childs’ decision was teammate Eric Mika.
“It was actually Eric that got me meeting with the missionaries, so we’ve built a pretty close relationship through that stuff,” Childs said.
Mika returned from his LDS mission to Italy last April and met Childs soon after. He learned of Childs’ history with the LDS church growing up in Utah and dating a LDS girl.
“Really all he needed was someone to make that final push to call the missionaries and I was the guy that was there,” Mika said.
Childs and Mika have forged a bond now that goes beyond the basketball court.
“It was cool sitting in on the lessons and seeing another side of Yoeli while we were getting to know each other on the court,” Mika recounted.
On the court, the BYU basketball coaching staff is thrilled with Childs and expects him to be a major contributor this season.
Associate head coach Tim LaComb, who has been with the Cougars since 2007, said Childs is a good fit for BYU’s offense.
“He fits our offense perfectly because he runs the court like a deer,” LaComb said. “He can get up and down the floor, he can get hard rebounds and he can finish around the basket.”
LaComb expects Childs to be a dunking machine in the upcoming season, which will be entertaining for Cougar fans who have missed the presence of a high-flying post player in recent years.
Many fans were excited about the opportunity for Childs to play four straight years, but with his recent conversion comes the possibility of a mission. Childs isn’t ruling out a mission, but says it’s likely not in the cards for him at this time.
Childs and the Cougars will take the court for their first exhibition game on Oct. 29 against Seattle Pacific.