PROVO — BYU will go into the 2018-19 season without one of its top players from a year ago, after wing Elijah Bryant elected to forgo his final season of eligibility to pursue a professional career.
But the Cougars won’t lose their other leader.
Yoeli Childs will return to BYU for his junior season, the former Bingham High star confirmed late Tuesday night via Twitter.
“After several weeks of prayer, talking with my family, those close to me, and NBA teams, I feel the best decision for my future and my family is to return to BYU for my junior year,” he wrote on Twitter.
He signed the note with “Go Cougs!!”
Childs averaged 17.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a sophomore, when he moved into a full-time starting role with the departure of ex-BYU big man Eric Mika. In 34 minutes per game, Childs was a 54 percent shooter and converted on 65 percent of his free throws while leading the team in rebounds and finishing second to Bryant on the team in scoring.
Childs, who won a state title at Bingham as a senior, then elected to test the NBA draft and receive feedback on his game following the season. But he did not hire an agent, maintaining his college eligibility if he were to withdraw his name from the draft before May 30.
He did not receive an invitation to the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago, but was able to work out for some NBA teams, being spotted in Los Angeles with NBA prospects.
“These last two years I’ve spent at BYU have been incredible,” Childs added. “The culture here is special and BYU has the best fans in the country. From teammates to coaches to fans, it really feels like a big family.”
With Childs back in the lineup, BYU returns most of its production from a year ago — minus, of course, Bryant, who worked out for the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks and has another workout scheduled with the Boston Celtics. The Cougars did not graduate a senior from last year’s squad, and welcome back embattled guard Nick Emery, who withdrew from school amid an NCAA investigation and for personal reasons that included a divorce.
Emery has said multiple times via social media that he plans to return to BYU.
BYU also adds former Timpview High standout Gavin Baxter, a four-star small forward, according to 247 Sports and top-100 recruit nationally who also had offers from Arizona State and Utah State. Baxter, a 6-foot-6 athlete known for his penchant for dunking, recently returned from a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will join the Cougars in time for summer workouts.
BYU opens the 2018-19 season Nov. 6 at defending Mountain West champion Nevada.