Sunset's Jalen Childs is on a mission
Jalen Childs has big goals.
The Sunset High School junior was recently named to the Metro League's all-star first team, but while he's proud of that accomplishment, Childs is already looking beyond high school ball.
"The goal is to play professional basketball," Childs said. "That's been my goal since like the seventh grade, and I feel like it's very achievable."
At 6-foot-3, the long and lanky guard is a problem for opposing teams on both ends of the floor. This past season, he averaged 19 points, five rebounds, 2.3 assists and two steals per game for the Apollos, leading Sunset to a 7-5 league record, fourth-place league finish and a state playoff berth. They ultimately lost to the No. 4-seeded South Medford Panthers.
"We really spent a lot of the first part of the season trying to get some team chemistry, because we didn't really know each other much to start the year," he said. "But when we got the pieces together, I think we shocked a lot of people. We started trusting each other, and I felt like I had a lot of growth personally, and the team did, too. I think next year, things can only be better."
Childs loves basketball, but it wasn't until he reached the seventh grade that he started to take the sport seriously.
Playing with older kids for most of his youth due to his father coaching his older stepbrother's teams, Childs said he got tired of being the worst player on all of his teams.
"I started to get kind of annoyed, because I'm a super-competitive person," he said. "So, I started training, and ever since, I've taken it super-serious."
In addition to the work his father has put in, Childs said his uncles have been instrumental in his development.
One of those uncles is former NBA star Nate Robinson. Robinson was a former first-round pick out of the University of Washington and spent a portion of 12 seasons in the league, even winning three slam dunk contests.
Childs said he's gotten to play with former and current NBA stars while at Robinson's home in Seattle. Robinson is always there when he needs him, Childs said, even if that just means putting him around people to make him successful.
"They're always looking out for me, giving me props and telling me what I can do better," Childs said of Robinson and another uncle who has mentored him, Dony Wilcher. "They just take care of me, and I love that about them."
They also teach him tricks of the trade, including the nuances of the game that often separate the good from the great.
"They've helped me so much with my pace," Childs said. "They've taught me how to move efficiently slow in an effort to read the defense or create a bucket. That's helped me a lot."
While he's less well-known than Robinson, Wilcher has a pedigree in his own right. Wilcher played college ball at the University of San Francisco and some professionally overseas. He's worked with some of the Portland area's most talented young hoopers over the last decade — including Childs, who said his uncle has committed countless hours to helping him reach his potential.
"If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be anywhere today," Childs said. "He's trained me, stayed up late talking with me, and really just always stays on me to keep working."
Childs said he been blessed with the people around him. In addition to his father and uncles, he's eternally grateful for his mother for always being there for him when he needs rides to practice, workouts, or even games in Seattle, where he's played for Seattle Rotary — one of the area's most elite youth basketball programs.
Childs also trains with local and renowned trainer Brian McGill, and he often works out at the Beaverton Hoop YMCA. He has more time to train these days after choosing to do his schooling online, which allows him the time necessary for schoolwork, basketball workouts and physical training — the latter of which was something he said was lacking with limited time in the day.
"I didn't have a lot of time to work on my body, and I was getting weaker," Childs said. "I knew that if I wanted to make this my career, I'd have to make this jump."
That's not to say he doesn't enjoy school. In fact, Childs is a good student who has a keen interest in the stock market. He even tried to start his own business during the pandemic, which fell short due to a lack of funding. He understands the importance of finance and is determined to be ready if and when he makes the type of money that comes with a career on the hardwood.
"If I can make basketball work, I'll be sure to save all my money and put it in the right places," Childs said. "I don't need fancy cars and houses. I want to take care of it (money) so I can pass it down to my children and, maybe when I'm older, create a business of my own."
Childs is generating interest from colleges across the country and has an offer from the University of Portland. He said he's ideally interested in playing somewhere in California, but he'll play anywhere that he feels fits his game and that will provide him the opportunity he's looking for.
And he's ready — excited, even — to put in the work to get there, he said.
"I know that if I keep working and keep achieving the little goals, I'll achieve the big goals down the line," Childs said.
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