Wake looks to another Childress to bring about days of future passed

Brandon Childress breakout second half performance against North Carolina last Wednesday provided an unexpected spark of optimism to a program in desperate need of something, anything, positive to break it from its recent doldrums

Jeremy Brevard—USA Today Sports
Brandon Childress had nine assists in Wake Forest's loss to Georgia Southern on Friday (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

WINSTON-SALEM — Nothing stirs the nostalgia in Wake Forest basketball fans faster than the image of a talented guard named Childress putting the Deacons on his back and taking over a game with his scoring and playmaking ability.It’s a sight that now fuels those same fans’ hopes for a return to glory, or at least the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.And it’s not just wishful thinking.Brandon Childress’ breakout secondhalf performance against North Carolina last Wednesday might not turn out to be the springboard for a Hall of Fame career like that of his father Randolph, whose jersey No. 22 hangs in the Joel Coliseum rafters alongside the ACC championship banner he almost singlehandedly won in 1995. But at the very least, it provided an unexpected spark of optimism to a program in desperate need of something, anything, positive to break it from its recent doldrums.”Brandon has come into this university with a very popular last name,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “The way that he’s handled every situation he’s been in has been very impressive. He’s a freshman, and he’s going to have his peaks and valleys. He continues to battle and bring it every night.”Childress has had more valleys than peaks during the first half of his debut season with the Deacons while playing behind both sophomore Bryant Crawford and junior Mitchell Wilbekin at the point guard position.One of those low points came in the first half of the UNC game, when after committing two bad turnovers in just two minutes of action, he was unceremoniously summoned back to the bench by Manning.It was then that his father, who also happens to be an assistant coach for the Deacons, leaned over and offered a few words of wisdom.”He told me to get out of my own way,” the former four-star recruit said. “He told me to wake up.”That’s hardly the first bit of guidance Brandon has received from his famous father, who does his best to keep his roles of coach and parent separate. The younger Childress is frequently reminded to concentrate on playing to his own strengths rather than trying to emulate the Deacon legend of the same surname whose number he’ll be playing beneath for the next four years.At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Brandon is shorter and a little more stocky than Randolph. He’s also more of a playmaker than a scorer, although as he showed Wednesday, he inherited the family knack for putting the ball in the basket, too.”I tell him all the time not to compare the way we are,” said Randolph, whose 2,208 career points are the second-most in school history.”I think one of the biggest, most underrated things for me was that I had older, experienced guys when I got here so that I didn’t have to think about anything else. I could just go out there and play. I was able to grow into my role. We don’t have that kind of experience right now. Brandon plays behind guys whose games are also still evolving. He is having to learn to run a team and think for everyone else.”That education took a major step forward against the Tar Heels last week.Heeding his father’s advice to stay out of his own way, Childress was a different player when he returned to the floor in the second half shortly after UNC appeared to have broken open the game by taking a 19-point lead.With both Crawford and big man John Collins out of the lineup because of foul trouble, Childress surprised everyone by asserting himself and taking over the game in much the same way Randolph used to do.He scored all 16 of his points in just 17 minutes, hitting for seven straight points during one stretch while going 4 of 9 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the line. One of those free throws pulled the Deacons to within 80-78 with 3:48 remaining.Although Wake wasn’t able to close the deal, eventually falling 93-87 to the ninth-ranked Tar Heels, it would never have been in a position to challenge had it not been for Childress. Not bad for a freshman who came into the game averaging 5.5 points per game while shooting just 31.3 percent from the floor.”He was on the scouting report, I can tell you that,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I told him that he had a heckuva game and I told his dad, because I know he was proud. He was big for them. His stats wouldn’t show that kind of thing for the season. I really thought he was good.”The elder Childress was, in fact, proud of what his son did against the Tar Heels. But it wasn’t because of the numbers he put up on the final stat sheet.”I’m proud of him, because when you have a young team like we do it’s so easy to lose confidence,” Randolph Childress said. “The first half was his low point of the season because we sat him down. Let’s call it what it was. He made mistakes, he got benched and he didn’t like it. But to see him come back and respond like he did in the second half, to make winning plays, was great to see.”We always knew that was in him. Now we have to get him to the point where we get that kind of effort out of him on a consistent basis.”The UNC game, combined with a seven-point performance in which he made both of his 3-point attempts to help his team to a 96-79 win against Miami on Wednesday, may or may not be the kind of light bulb moment that sparks a more consistent effort and catapults the Deacons back to the glory days his father helped fashion. But they certainly won’t do anything to hurt the youngster’s confidence moving forward.”From this point forward I just have to get out of my own way, just think about the next play and keep on competing,” Childress said. “And whatever happens, happens.”