The return of junior forward Elijah Childs is something Bradley men’s basketball fans have long awaited. In fact, he had missed 12 of the last 13 games for the Braves. When his name was the first announced at Carver Arena, the crowd exploded and drowned out the announcement of starting center Ari Boya.
Boya took the jump ball and lost it. In the past Childs served as the tip-off man. Less than three minutes in he threw down a left handed jam and it was clear the junior was there to make his presence known.
He finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds; better than his season average of 14.2 points and 9.1 rebounds.
“I wish no one, a young person, [injury]; it’s always good to see them bounce back and be able to play even if it is against us,” Evansville head coach Tom Lickliter said. “You always want them to recover and fulfill their desire to play. He was very effective.”
Childs showcased that effectiveness by shooting 7-13 from the field and grabbing key rebounds.
Senior point guard Darrell Brown said that Childs is a key cog for the team’s success. According to Brown, Childs brings energy, rebounding and scoring.
“We need Eli 110 percent, so I mean always having Eli out there makes a big difference,” Brown said. “He’s a great teammate so having his positive spirit and knowing he can help us when he’s talking and encouraging others.”
That encouragement was on display following a double technical on Evansville’s K.J. Riley and Bradley’s redshirt-junior guard Danya Kingsby. Childs huddled the five on the floor and tried to separate the grouping from whistle-happy official Gerry Pollard.
“He’s vocal,” head coach Brian Wardle said. “I liked our huddles at the free throw line today even when we were going through [rough stretches]. There was a good vibe and better talk today.”
That talk is part of what Brown says Childs brings to the team. He is a big piece that helps the Braves play as a team.
“When somebody goes down regardless of its Eli, me or anybody else I just feel like the show has to keep going,” Brown said. “We have to pick eachother up and keep trying to win games. [With Childs back on the floor] we will find our rhythm and … get our chemistry back right. We will be taking off from here.”
Wardle said that having the reigning Arch Madness Tournament MVP will help the team develop and reach its full potential in the second half of the Valley schedule.
“He draws a lot of attention and opens up those lanes for [Brown and senior Nate Kennell] to drive and playmaker, so hopefully we can keep building off that and improve which is exciting for me because we get to practice now,” Wardle said.
Those practices are key to Childs helping the team steady itself atop the conference standings and make a run in St. Louis. Childs said he’s glad he could contribute to the team in a big way. .
“It felt great to be back out there with the team,” Childs said. “A little rust but I played enough minutes where I can get back in the flow of the game.”
“For him to come back, get his 30 minutes and get a double double is pretty much what he expects from himself,” Wardle said.
After a raucous return, the expectations may have been raised a bit higher. Children often call attention to themselves and Elijah Childs does the same for the Braves.