UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Thomas Welsh

UCLA center Thomas Welsh played his role in the nation’s best offense ever better than it appeared. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Strengths: Thomas Welsh was UCLA’s sixth offensive option. It’s a testament to the junior center that he still managed to average double figures. Starting alongside a couple of first-round draft picks and two of the most prolific scorers in UCLA history, Welsh played his role in the nation’s highest-scoring offense even better than it appeared. Nobody on UCLA’s roster shot a better percentage on 2-point jumpers than the 7-foot junior, according to hoop-math.com. Welsh’s 52 percent clip on 2-pointers not at the rim wasn’t the only pure shooting statistic for which he posted UCLA’s most impressive number. He led the team with an 89.4 free throw percentage. And it wasn’t a small sample size. Welsh made 42 of 47 free throws this season.

Weaknesses: Welsh was not a rim protector, a stark contrast to his more athletic and less-played backup, freshman Ike Anigbogu. He made up for some of his physical shortcomings on the defensive end with solid team defense and a team-leading 8.7 rebounds per game, but there is no denying Welsh was a finesse player on a team that had too many of them. He wasn’t a presence in the paint on either end of the floor, attempting just 21 percent of his field goals at the rim. Power forward TJ Leaf, by comparison, took 51 percent of his shots at the rim. UCLA’s glaring weakness was physical play and their center was an apt representation for why.

Best moment: Welsh played an integral role in a game that won’t stand out as one of UCLA’s most important victories of the season to the casual fan, but was vital for a number of reasons. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Thomas Welsh” »

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Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh declare for NBA draft, won’t hire agents

Aaron Holiday (left) and Thomas Welsh will both declare for the NBA draft, but neither will hire an agent. (AP photo/Mark Humphrey)

UCLA sophomore Aaron Holiday and junior Thomas Welsh will declare for the NBA draft, a UCLA spokesperson confirmed on Monday. Neither will hire agents, meaning they have until May 24 to withdraw their names in order to return to school.

Neither player is projected to be selected in the draft. ESPN rates Holiday the No. 80 NBA prospect and Welsh No. 119. NBADraft.net ranks Holiday and Welsh 61st and 85th, respectively.

They may be declaring primarily to workout for NBA teams and gather information about how best to prepare for the league when they do leave school for good. UCLA coach Steve Alford’s statement about their decision indicated as much.

“Both Thomas and Aaron are doing their due diligence in getting feedback from the NBA to determine what’s in the best interest for their basketball futures,” Alford said. “Each of these young men come from strong families with great support networks and I want them to know that we will fully support their decisions, whichever way they go.”

There is much riding on the eventual decisions of Holiday and Welsh for a UCLA team already losing freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf to the NBA along with seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton. Freshman Ike Anigbogu has also declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent. Continue reading “Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh declare for NBA draft, won’t hire agents” »

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Basketball game day links: Styles clash in second round

Thomas Welsh, with his midrange jumper, is one of many potent weapons UCLA has on offense. HARRY HOW — GETTY IMAGES

UCLA loves to run. Cincinnati loves to wait.

The team that successfully imposes its will on offense will likely be the one to emerge from Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second-round matchup between the No. 3-seeded Bruins and the No. 6-seeded Bearcats at 6:40 p.m. PT in Sacramento.

“We’ve got to keep that ball moving whether we’re at half court or at the full court,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “We’ve got to make sure our spacing is good, our cutting is sharp, our screens are good and physical and the ball moves. If it doesn’t and it becomes a grind that favors them.”

UCLA (30-4) is trying to advance to its third Sweet 16 in four years under Alford. Cincinnati (30-5) is in its seventh straight NCAA Tournament.

Links to preview the game:

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UCLA’s Ball, Leaf, Alford, Welsh make mid-season award lists

Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are in the running for several of college basketball’s top awards

Naismith Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year
Freshman Lonzo Ball was the only UCLA representative on the 50-player preseason watch list for college basketball’s most prestigious award. The Bruins freshman point guard will almost assuredly be one of the 30 players on the mid-season watch list when it’s announced on Thursday. He was one of six Pac-12 players on the preseason list along with Waghington’s Markelle Fultz, Cal’s Ivan Rabb, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher.

As a pass-first point guard, Ball will largely be judged on UCLA’s win total and the Bruins aren’t too shabby in that department with 20 victories in their first 23 games. The 6-foot-6 freshman is the only player in the country averaging at least 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Ball’s actual averages are 14.8 points, eight assists and 5.8 rebounds.

TJ Leaf was added to the Wooden award watch list at the mid-season mark


John R. Wooden Award (Player of the Year)
Ball and classmate TJ Leaf are two of 25 to crack the mid-season watch list for an award that carries plenty of weight in Westwood – it’s sponsored by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. It was no surprise that Ball was among the preseason top 50 for the award. Leaf, however, was not.

The committee gave a nod to Leaf’s particularly high level of play through the freshman’s first 17 games, adding the 6-foot-10 forward to the pool of candidates on Jan. 11 while subtracting more than 25 from the preseason list. Leaf is averaging a team-high 17 points and 8.9 rebounds. He is shooting 64 percent from the field, the 19th-best mark in the country.

The complete John R. Wooden Award Mid-Season Watch List:
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, Soph., G
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, Fr., G
Joel Berry II, North Carolina, Jr., G Continue reading “UCLA’s Ball, Leaf, Alford, Welsh make mid-season award lists” »

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UCLA’s Thomas Welsh named to Pac-12 All-Academic second team

UCLA center Thomas Welsh is the first Bruin named to a Pac-12 All-Academic team since 2010. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Archive)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh is the first Bruin named to a Pac-12 All-Academic team since 2010. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Archive)

Thomas Welsh has been named to the Pac-12 All-Academic second team, becoming the first UCLA men’s basketball player to receive such honors since 2010.

The sophomore center maintained a 3.18 GPA in economics while averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season. He led the team with 10 double-doubles, but head coach Steve Alford never found a way to best utilize both him and senior big man Tony Parker in the same lineup en route to a 15-17 record.

Welsh is the first Bruin to win conference academic honors since Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, a little-used reserve who earned a first-team nod with a 3.81 GPA in global studies. Malcolm Lee made the second team behind him that same season.

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