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PROVO — Mark Pope just landed the biggest recruiting target of his early tenure as head coach of the BYU men’s basketball team.
Yoeli Childs, the Cougars' leading scorer and rebounder from last year who was considered by many to be a lock to stay in the NBA draft, announced Wednesday night via Twitter his intentions to return to BYU for his senior year.
"Cougar Nation, I want to let you guys know," he said in a video from BYU's practice facility in the Marriott Center Annex. "I'm coming back for my senior year. Let’s make some magic happen."
Childs averaged 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Cougars (19-13, 11-5 WCC) as a junior in 2018-19, but declared for the NBA Draft following the season. Under recent NCAA legislation, underclassmen had until May 29 to pull out of the draft and retain their eligibility, even if they hired an agent to help coordinate workouts with NBA teams.
Childs was considered by many to stay in the draft after the senior-to-be declared for the draft, and even though he didn’t receive an invitation to the NBA Combine in Chicago, he had workouts with the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, among others, as he navigated the presumedly post-college waters.
It was the second time Childs "tested the NBA waters," but he opted to return after several workouts with clubs taken following a standout sophomore season.
With his return for his senior year, the former Bingham High standout joins a senior-laden roster that includes Nick Emery, TJ Haws, Dalton Nixon and Zac Seljaas, as well as Utah Valley graduate transfer Jake Toolson, whose career began at BYU before earning all-Western Athletic Conference player of the year honors as a junior for the Wolverines.
Pope also brought along forwards Wyatt Lowell and Richard Harward from Utah Valley, but the two bigs will sit out the 2019-20 season, per NCAA transfer regulations. Former Davis High standout Jesse Wade, who played one season at Gonzaga, will be eligible to suit up for the Cougars next year after sitting out the past season, and former Lehi star Blaze Nield joins the roster as a preferred walk-on following one season of junior college basketball at Utah State-Eastern in Price.
Taylor Miller, an all-state scoring champion at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, and Trevin Knell, the Woods Cross grad who originally signed with Cal before serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are also newcomers to the roster.
The Cougars also return former Timpview dunk star Gavin Baxter and Idaho prep player of the year Connor Harding for Pope’s first year, when he will be joined by former UVU assistants Cody Fueger and Chris Burgess and one-time Southern Utah head coach Nick Robinson — all of whom seemed rather pleased, bordering on hysteria to learn that Childs would be back for another year.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward has totaled 1,609 points, 882 rebounds, 184 assists, 142 blocked shots and 80 steals in three seasons with the Cougars, amassing more than 3,000 minutes across 100 games, including 92 starts.
Childs is one of six BYU players with 1,600 points and 800 rebounds, a list that includes Michael Smith, Russ Larson, Fred Roberts, Kyle Collinsworth and Brandon Davies.
Childs is the third Utah college basketball standout to pull his name from the draft this week.
Junior guard Jerrick Harding announced his intentions to return to Weber State this week, a season after averaging 21.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Wildcats.
Then on Tuesday, the Aggies received their own great news with four words from freshman star Neemias Queta: "Aggie Nation, I'm back."
The 6-foot-11 Portuguese center was one of 66 players selected to attend the NBA Combine one season after Queta averaged 11.8 points per game and set a Utah State freshman record with 84 blocks over the course of his 35-game season. The Mountain West defensive player of the year helped the Aggies snap a decade-long NCAA Tournament drought when they earned the No. 8 seed opposite Pac-12 champion Washington, and he’ll return to the Utah State frontcourt along with leading scorer Sam Merrill.