Former Panther taking advantage of starting role for Big Rapids

BIG RAPIDS — The Big Rapids boys basketball team is off to a 5-0 start to the season, and junior Braeden Childress is a big reason why.

The 6-foot-3 guard/forward is coming off a nine-point performance in a 55-37 win over Tawas Area on Saturday.

Seniors Demetri Martin and Christian Hector draw the most attention from opposing defense, but forgetting about Childress doesn’t end well for teams. He has the ball-handling skills to put the ball on the floor, the size to bang in the paint and the shooting touch to knock down 3-point baskets.

Childress, who played his freshman year in Baldwin, saw playing time at the varsity level last year for the Cardinals as a sophomore and has seen his role expand this year as a starter.

“He was our sixth man last year,” Cardinals coach Kent Ingles said. “But he played starter minutes for us. He could have played and started anywhere else.”

With an expanded role comes an expanded skill set. Childress put countless hours of work into his game over the offseason, and the results have been positive so far.

“I knew I had to step up after we graduated so many players last year,” Childress said. “I’m more confident in my game than I was last year. Demetri helped me and taught me some things.

“I had to get my handles down. I really had to stay in shape due to the increase in my minutes. My jump shot has come along, too.”

The pressure of winning can break most teams, but according to Childress, he and his teammates have the right mindset.

“We’ve only played one away game,” Childress said. “So our mindset is that we’re not losing at home; we need to take care of home court. When we’re away, we know it’s going to be tough to beat anybody.

“We just need to play ball, and not play down to our opponent’s level of competition. We do our best to put teams away early.”