Tommy Childs used to be the last kid picked for the pickup game.
Childs would wait anxiously on the sideline as older, bigger kids were selected for teams one by one. But no one wanted to pick little Tommy.
"I never got to play because I was too small," Childs said. "No one picked me. The only time I got picked is when my brother would say, 'Yeah, he's with me. You have to pick him on your team.' Or the last game in the park they'd say, 'You want to play, man? Just c'mon.'
"Then they'd find out I could play and it was pretty cool, unless they wouldn't pass me the ball. I had to get rebounds so I could go back and jack it up."
Because he was undersized Childs had to find ways to score in those pickup games against the likes of former Elgin standouts Grissette (Kennedy-King College), D'Angelo Stewart (Elgin Community College), Armani Williams (Texas-Arlington) and Jeremy Granger (Eastern Illinois).
It was on those playgrounds Childs said he first developed his signature teardrop finger roll, an effective shot that goes high off the backboard for 2 points against bigger players, a shot South Elgin coach Chaz Taft continues to drill Childs on every day in practice.
Paying his dues against the older kids yielded results in the long run. After averaging 8.7 points per game as a junior for a South Elgin team that finished with a school-best 19 wins, the now 5-foot-8 guard has developed into the top scorer for the Storm in his senior season.
Heading into today's Class 4A Bartlett regional title game, Childs is the Fox Valley area's second leading-scorer at 17.2 points per game for a team sporting a record of 18-9. Through 26 games entering regional play, he was shooting 131 of 224 on 2-point attempts (58.5 percent), 37 of 120 from 3-point range (30.8 percent), 80 of 100 from the free-throw line and was averaging 3.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals per game.
For his stellar senior season, South Elgin senior guard Tommy Childs has been named an Honorary Co-Captain of the 2009-10 Daily Herald All-Area team. He shares the award with Bartlett senior guard Luke Labedzki, a player who knows first hand how tough Childs is to guard.
"His quickness is his strength, that and that little floater he does - I hate that fricking thing," Labedzki said with a laugh two days after the Childs burned his Bartlett team for a game-high 21 points in South Elgin's 66-62 victory. "That shot is impossible to block, impossible to steal. And he can shoot really well, too. He's a good dribbler and he's smart out there. He's a great player."
Childs played in the Junior Maroons feeder program in Elgin until his family moved to South Elgin when he was in seventh grade. It was a welcome change for a young man who said he wanted to make a name for himself at a new school where he wouldn't be known only as "Brandon's little brother."
He played two seasons at the sophomore level at South Elgin while adjusting to the academic demands of high school. Childs opened his junior season as a reserve guard, but he got his chance to start early in the season at the Fenton Thanksgiving Tournament after starter Kyle Osborne suffered a leg injury. Childs made an immediate impact.
"That was the night he exploded for 20 against Elk Grove," Taft said. "That's when I (was quoted as saying) he's taking this program to the next level. It was like, make way for Tommy Childs."
Childs went on to lead South Elgin with 11 points in a victory over Drew Crawford and Naperville Central in the title game of the Fenton Tournament and he was named to the all-tournament team.
Tasked in his senior season to be the leading scoring option for the Storm, he returned to Fenton in November and earned the tournament MVP honor Crawford had garnered a year earlier. He averaged 18.8 points in 4 games, including 17 points in the title-game victory over Libertyville.
More big games followed. He set a career high with 32 points in a loss to Oswego at the York Tournament in December. He broke that record 11 days later when he poured in 36 points in a home win against Jacobs.
"There have been some games where we just sit back and watch, like the Jacobs game," Taft said. "I mean, 36? It was one fast break after another and we were like, 'What is going on? Wow!' "
Childs insists he does not play with a score-at-all costs philosophy.
"I just want to make my teammates better," he said. "I'm not there to get my shots. I'm here for them to get their shots and for us to win. I know what I have to do to win, but I'm not out there to get my shots or to think about myself. I know it's my senior year, but I want to win. I'm thinking about everyone else on the floor."
Like many teenagers, Childs admits he has made mistakes along the way, on and off the court. He credited Taft for his patience in allowing him to develop into the player he has become.
"He's done a lot for me that people don't know about," Childs said of his coach. "I could talk a few hours about what he's done for me. I really don't deserve to be on the team as far as the things I've done. He's given me a lot of second chances for things I've done in the past. I love him like a father. He'll break his neck for me for anything. I love the dude."
"He's faced some adversity," Taft said. "I think a lot of other people would have given up on him, but I stuck behind him. Brandon was away at school, so he would come to me. It has been kind of like a father-son relationship.
"I am so happy for him as a player and as an individual. I've seen him come through the program and grow up into man. That's the thing I'm proudest of about him."
Childs doesn't get picked last for pickup games anymore, but he'll never shed the title of "Brandon's little brother." And he's OK with that. Childs and Grissette talk on the phone before each of Childs' games. Still, Grissette has a way of reminding Childs who his big brother is when they square off head to head.
"We still play one-on-one every now and then," Childs said. "I still can't beat him."
Captains honor roll
1995-96 - Muamer Karamovic (St. Edward)
1996-97 - Kevin Jarm (Elgin)
1997-98 - Sean Harrington (Elgin)
1998-99 - Sean Harrington (Elgin) and T.J. Sportsman (Burlington Central)
1999-2000 - Marcus Smallwood (Elgin) and Marcus Howard (Elgin)
2000-01 - Jason Kalsow (Huntley) and Pat Kalamatas (Huntley)
2001-02 - Anthony Maestranzi (Bartlett)
2002-03 - Eric Vierneisel (Jacobs)
2003-04 - Eric Vierneisel (Jacobs) and Phil Wallace (Crystal Lake South)
2004-05 - Ryan Brown (Crystal Lake South) and Kas Wleklinski (Burlington Central)
2005-06 - Dayvon Ellis (Larkin) and Sam Lynch (Dundee-Crown)
2006-07 - John Moran (Jacobs) and Cully Payne (Burlington Central)
2007-08 - John Moran (Jacobs) and Mike McCurdy (Burlington Central)
2008-09 - Conrad Krutwig (Jacobs) and Marc Little (Bartlett)
2009-10 - Tommy Childs (South Elgin) and Luke Labedzki (Bartlett)