Editor’s note: Josh Childress played basketball at Stanford from 2002 to 2004 and was a standout forward for the Cardinal. Despite missing nine games with a foot injury his junior year, Childress averaged 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 blocks and was named an AP First Team All-American and the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year. Following the 2004 season, he turned professional and was the sixth player taken in the NBA Draft, by the Atlanta Hawks, the highest a Stanford player has ever been drafted. The 6-foot-8, 210-pound Childress played for Atlanta until 2008, then signed a lucrative contract to play in Europe for Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece. In 2010, he was an all-Euroleague second round selection and led the Greek League in scoring. Childress returned to the NBA in 2010 and played for Phoenix, Brooklyn, and New Orleans. The Southern California native returned to Stanford last summer to complete his degree in sociology.
By Josh Childress, ’05
MY STANFORD EXPERIENCE
The thing that stands out to me most about my Stanford experience is the amazing folks I met during my time there, including my teammates. The people I met were gifted and talented individuals who were also good and caring. As a young man venturing away from home, it raised my standard. It was the ultimate environment for growth.
I was around a group of guys on the basketball team who I’m still very close with today. Having played on many teams in my lifetime, I can’t say that I’ve ever met a group of guys committed to one goal quite like they were. They’re lifelong friends. That’s one of the most valuable benefits of attending Stanford and being a part of the Stanford family. Although people tend to discuss the prestige of the university, that prestige, in my mind, begins with the strength of the Stanford community. I remember my first few days of practice, matching up with Matt Lottich, ’04. Here’s a guy who is as fiery as they come. He pushed me to be better. And our walk-on team manager, Olatunde Sobomehin, ’02, pushed us all to be better by setting the pace in running the mile. He absolutely demolished everybody. But that was the fastest mile I ever ran, and probably the fastest for most of the other guys, too. The same mentality existed both in the classroom and socially. It pushed all of us and bred healthy competition.
In regards to the basketball team, there are two specific things that stand out. The first is the first summer that we spent together. Everybody made the commitment to stay during summer break and we really built a brotherhood. We were all working together for a common goal and all trying to be the best for our teammates. I saw the same kind of dedication to “team” in the men’s basketball and football programs this past summer when I was back on campus finishing my degree. That sort of dedication and sacrifice led to us being a good team. That year (2003–04), we had the best season of my Stanford career with a 31-2 record. That spoke volumes about the quality of the guys on our team. The camaraderie and brotherhood that we formed are things I miss and look back on fondly.
The second thing that stands out is the Arizona game. It was a premier Saturday morning game on ABC. Both teams were ranked and Maples was rocking. I think that game set the tone for the rest of the season. Our mentality was that we would not give up no matter the circumstances. We were going to fight to the end.
Obviously, the end of that game was an ESPN instant classic. Nick Robinson, ’04, MA ’05, hit that desperate, long-range three to seal the win and invite pandemonium to Maples. That game was a byproduct of the work that we put in that summer. We were never the highest-ranked team coming into the season. We always had to go out and earn our respect. This year, basketball has high hopes for success in the postseason and next year we will welcome a great recruiting class. As a former player and a guy who knows a little bit about sports, and as someone who went through the recruiting process, I can say that our coaches face challenges when recruiting kids to Stanford. Having the ability to attract the best and brightest student-athletes and assemble great teams is a sign of the coaching staff’s true work ethic. I know that Coach Dawkins (The Anne and Tony Joseph Director of Men’s Basketball) has been working diligently to try and get that done.
I also look forward to the continued success of the football program. Coach Shaw (The Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football) has done a great job of not only fielding winning teams, but also instilling consistency in the program with the type of student-athletes he recruits. I’m excited to be seeing the same thing happening with the basketball program as well as all of the other athletic programs within the university.
Coming out of college, I played for the Atlanta Hawks for four seasons, then went to Europe to play for Olympiacos Piraeus in the Greek League and the Euroleague. The latter experience was unbelievable. At the time, people considered it a trailblazing move due to the fact that I was able to sign the biggest contract in European basketball history and leave the NBA. The move overseas afforded me the opportunity to see a different part of the world, embrace a different culture, and gain friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. From a cultural aspect, I was able to grow as an individual in the two years I was there. I guess you could say going to Europe was a calculated risk. Once again, the risk paid off, and people immediately attributed it to my being a Stanford guy. Since then, I’ve kind of bounced around a bit. I spent two years in Phoenix, half a year in Brooklyn, and played a bit in New Orleans this year. Now I’m living in Southern California again and looking forward to my next challenge, be it on the court or in another endeavor.
It’s pretty funny—having played professional basketball for the last 10 years, the first thing people ask me is, “How was Stanford? How did you like going there?” There’s an automatic assumption that I’m a smart basketball player because I went to Stanford. It’s a great feeling when people respect your intellect.
There are tons of people who are proud of their alma maters and proud to be alumni, but I feel it’s a different sort of pride we Cardinal have, just because of the all-around excellence of the university. I remember having many debates on the team bus about who went to the best university. It always ended in Grant Hill, a Duke graduate, conceding second place and everyone else fighting for the lower rankings. Stanford is well respected and is a place to which you are proud to have gone and are proud to represent. I enjoy walking around, wherever I am, in my Stanford hoodie or sweatshirt.
GIVING BACK TO STANFORD ATHLETICS
My interest in giving back to Stanford Athletics came from my realizing just how blessed I was to receive a merit-based athletic scholarship at Stanford University. I grew up in the inner city and my family would not have been able to afford my Stanford education. Mr. (John) Arrillaga was my scholarship donor and is the epitome of a giver. Every time I walked into Jimmy V’s, I would pass by the athletic scholarship donor wall and see my picture associated with the Arrillaga Family Scholarship. I always told myself that if I was financially able to do so, I would pay that back by providing the same opportunity for another kid. My athletic scholarship was a blessing, and for me to be able to give back is also a blessing.
Thanks to many generous donors before me, men’s basketball academic year scholarships are fully endowed to the maximum number allowed by the NCAA. However, Stanford student-athletes truly are students first and athletes second, and sometimes maximizing the university’s academic opportunities means taking part in the summer quarter. This is the case for a select number of student-athletes from the basketball (men’s and women’s) and football programs, and it is the reason why the athletic department has established summer scholarships.
When the concept of a summer scholarship was presented to me, I embraced it. The gift of a summer scholarship would support a basketball student-athlete’s education, and allow him to stay on campus, work toward his degree, gel with his teammates on the court, and help build the foundation for the season. The fond memories of the growth that we experienced as a team during the summer of 2003 made the summer scholarship that much more appealing.
The athletic department has limited resources dedicated to summer scholarships, and I know that there were student-athletes last summer who were unable to take summer coursework for financial reasons. When I considered all the factors and the associated benefits, I felt compelled to get involved. As the first former student-athlete to make a gift to summer scholarships, I hope that this gift will inspire others to consider similar gifts benefitting current and future generations of Stanford student-athletes.
I am grateful for my Stanford experience—the people I met, the education I earned, and my lifelong affiliation with the greatest university in the world are very special to me. Being able to give back to help the next generation enjoy the same opportunities I received is icing on the cake.