‘Family, gratitude and getting 1% better’ – Yoeli Childs’ journey brings him home
Gratitude. That is the word former BYU men’s basketball star Yoeli Childs used to describe his journey so far, a journey that has now brought him back to Utah as a member of the Salt Lake City Stars.
Born and raised in Utah, Childs made his way from Bingham High School to BYU to continue his education and basketball career with his sights set on reaching the NBA. He had a stellar four-year career at BYU finishing as the top rebounder in BYU history with 1,053 rebounds and sixth in career points with 2,031 points. Childs is the only player in BYU history with more than 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
COVID-19 abruptly ended his senior season in 2020. Childs’ journey then took him to Washington D.C. and Germany before he finally came back home to Utah to play for the Stars, the Jazz G-League affiliate.
Childs’ first taste of the pros was getting signed as an undrafted free agent by the Washington Wizards in late 2020 and attending the team’s training camp, where he played with NBA superstars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
“It was awesome to go out and compete against these superstars and great players,” Childs said. “It was cool to see that the level was not so far out of reach.”
Following training camp, Childs’ next stop was Orlando, Florida, to participate in the “G-League Bubble” in February 2021. The league chose to play out its season in a bubble format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Childs left his family to isolate in the bubble for five weeks in order to get his first opportunity to play professional basketball.
“Being away from family for a couple of months was hard,” Childs said. “But I was finally able to do what I love at a professional level.”
Not only was Childs able to finally get to do what he loved, but he was able to do it at a high level, scoring in double figures five times while playing in 12 games for the Erie Bayhawks. In the bubble, Childs averaged just under nine points a game while shooting over 53% from the field.
Although playing in the G-League wasn’t what Childs originally hoped for in his first professional season, it was a great first step toward reaching his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.
“Ideally, you want to get drafted and play in the NBA immediately, but you have to keep perspective,” Childs said. “It’s easy to be short-sighted and to want this now, but for me, it’s about progress.”
Childs’ next stop in his journey led him to Germany to play for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, a member of Germany’s highest-profile basketball league. Due to a minor knee injury, Childs only appeared in three games for MHP Riesen, but in those three games, he averaged a near double-double, with 10 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
“It was a good opportunity to grow my game and still have NBA eyes on me,” Childs said. “The game there does have some differences but at the end of the day, everywhere you go it’s just basketball.”
While in Germany, the Childs’ family gained a new member with Yoeli and his wife, Megan, welcoming the birth of their daughter, Amara. Becoming a father has changed the way Childs looks at basketball.
“When you have a family it is important to think about them before yourself,” Childs said. “Before I am a basketball player, I am a husband and a father.”
Becoming a father put life into perspective for Childs and added some extra motivation in his career as well.
“I’ve always been motivated to take care of my family,” Childs said. “But it adds extra motivation so that when you are tired and don’t want to get those extra reps in or dive on that loose ball, it’s just one more thing to think about.”
While recovering from his knee injury and adjusting to being a father, an opportunity to come home to Utah arose and Childs couldn’t pass it up.
On Jan. 13, the Salt Lake City Stars announced the acquisition of Childs’ player rights from the Washington Wizards’ G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
“I think it’s a great basketball fit, but even more so it’s really nice to enjoy this time somewhere we are comfortable and familiar,” Childs said.
To say it’s been a great fit so far would be an understatement. In his first nine games for the Stars, Childs is averaging 13.9 points per game while shooting more than 63% from the field, grabbing more than nine rebounds a game and blocking 1.6 shots per game.
Childs has really found his groove over the last three games, averaging 21.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting more than 70% from the field, including a 31-point game on Feb. 3.
Childs has no plan to slow down. “I am always chasing. I am always hungry for more to be the best version of myself,” Childs said. “The mentality I have to have is ‘I’ve never made it’ no matter what level I get to.”
Childs knows there are going to be hardships and disappointments along his journey but he chooses to focus on “controlling the controllable.”
“Yes there are disappointments when you don’t get to do things that you want to do but you have to maintain perspective and I understand that I am very blessed to be in the situation that I’m in,” Childs said. “I’m just so grateful to my Father in Heaven for guiding me through every step of the way.”
Focusing on family, gratitude and getting 1% better every day is what motivates Childs to become the best version of himself, on and off the court.
“It’s all about progress. Can I get 1% better every day? Can I get just a little bit better and stack those wins,” Childs said. “Hopefully as I continue to do that and play hard, I can get to the NBA and play at the level I want to play at.”