Tennessee sophomore power forward Ryan Childress was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, a little more than an hour away from the campus of Ohio State University. This weekend, Childress will return to his home state looking to capture some of his boyhood dreams.
Childress said he is looking forward to this homecoming of sorts when the Tennessee men’s basketball team travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of a nationally televised audience.
Ohio State means a lot to the 6-9 Volunteer. His grandfather won a national title playing football for Ohio State under legendary coach Woody Hayes, and he has been a lifelong fan of Ohio State and Cincinnati sports. However, Childress will be wearing orange this weekend and said he has a good idea of what it will take to come out of Columbus with an upset victory over the fifth- ranked Buckeyes.
“We have to limit Greg Oden’s touches and stop their skilled guards,” Childress said. “I do not plan on doing anything differently just because this game is in my home state. (I will) just bring a lot of energy and try not to get out of character.”
Making this game more memorable to Childress will be all his friends and family coming to watch. He estimates more than 30 people will be there to root him on. While that could make some people nervous, Childress thrives in such situations.
Earlier this season, Childress recorded 13 points and a career high 11 rebounds in a win over East Tennessee State — a game at which many of his relatives were in attendance.
“The fact that I had family there was in the back of my mind,” Childress said. “You do not let it affect your game, but at the same time, you know they came a long way to see you, and you want to play well for them — just like you want to play well every game.”
Childress said he loved growing up in Ohio. He enjoyed all the sports, the Skyline Chili and winning a state title at Moeller High School. However, staying in Ohio to play college basketball was not for him. The main reason was coach Bruce Pearl.
Originally, the Ohio-native committed to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, for which Pearl had recruited him. When Pearl was hired by Tennessee that same year, it was a no-brainer for Childress to alter his college path and come south.
Childress said he was not worried about the jump. He liked the up-tempo coaching style Pearl executed and the way he used his big men in offensive schemes. The fact that Knoxville was much closer to home than Milwaukee helped solidify the decision, as well.
In only his second year, Childress has earned regular minutes off coach Pearl’s limited bench. The main reason for his success, according to his teammates, is energy.
“I think he brings a lot of energy off the bench,” freshman guard Josh Tabb said. “He rebounded the ball well in the last couple of games and is doing the small things to help us win.”
Childress will have to continue to do the small things if the Volunteers expect to win Saturday. Tennessee has played top-notch teams at neutral sites, but this will be their first true road test of the season.
While most of the crowd will be screaming against Tennessee, more than 30 fans will help Ryan Childress feel right at home.