Brandon Childress’ Wake Forest career ends with a whimper, not a bang

Brandon Childress enjoyed individual success, but was part of only one winning team in his four seasons at Wake Forest (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)

GREENSBORO — Brandon Childress didn’t choose to play basketball for Wake Forest because of his father, Randolph. He did because, as he said Tuesday, black and gold is in his blood.

Still, the comparisons are inescapable.

At least twice during the Deacons’ opening round ACC tournament game against Pittsburgh, the highlight of Randoph’s game-winning step-back jumper against North Carolina that clinched the 1995 tournament championship was replayed on the big screen above the court at Greensboro Coliseum.

Brandon desperately wanted a moment of his own before his career with the Deacons was done. Instead, his final shot came up short — an airball long after the outcome was determined in an 81-72 loss to the lower-seeded Panthers.

“You can tell by my emotions after the game when I came out I just let everything out,” Childress said with tears welling in his eyes. “I gave Wake Forest all I had from the moment I committed on October 24th of 2014 during Midnight Madness. I told Coach Manning I wanted to come here and didn’t even hesitate when I got the opportunity. 

“People don’t know this; my father had no fingerprint in my recruitment. It wasn’t a bad thing, he just wanted me to make my own decision. (Assistant coach Steve) Woodbury recruited me and he built the relationship. After that I always knew about Wake Forest but I always knew where I wanted to go and prove people wrong that I belonged in the ACC.”

While Brandon won’t have his number raised to the rafters of Joel Coliseum like his dad — who is also an assistant coach to Danny Manning — he did succeed in proving he belonged at the highest level of college basketball.

After playing primarily a backup role for his first two seasons, the 6-foot point guard blossomed when Manning put him in control of the offense as a junior.

He averaged 14.7 points and 4.0 assists per game in 2018-19, then improved those figures to 16.2 points and 4.6 this season, and is only the fifth player in program history to score at least 1,400 points and hand out 400 assists in his career with the Deacons.

Between them, Childress and his father are the highest-scoring father-son duo in ACC history with a combined 3.,606 points.

But unlike his dad, who has two ACC championship rings to his credit, Brandon played on only one team that finished with a winning record, a 19-14 season during his freshman year of 2016-17.

“Going into my junior year when Coach Manning told me I would have to accept a bigger role and there was going to be a little more weight on my shoulders,” Chidress said, “I embraced that.”

That sense of responsibility showed Tuesday after the final defeat of  his career. Although he scored 17 points and handed out four assists in 38 minutes, Childress was only 5 of 13 from the floor. He was particularly upset with himself over the four turnovers he committed, miscues that helped Pitt score 19 points off Wake turnovers in the game.

“Sometimes they were more aggressive than usual and I was careless with the ball,” Childress said. “As a senior point guard with four turnovers, it’s unacceptable.”

His teammates, however, were quick to share the blame for a loss that saw the Deacons fail to take advantage of a hot start in which they shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half and allowed Panthers’ freshman Justin Champagnie to pour in 31 points against them.

According to junior center Olivier Sarr, Childress’ influence on the team will continue to be strong even after he graduates in May.

“Brandon is one of the hardest workers I ever met in my life,” Sarr said. “He just works every day and he rubs some of that on to every single person on our team. I think that’s going to carry into next year and I think we’re going to make a change.”