VIDEO: Thomas Welsh talks about UCLA’s win over SMU

Freshman center Thomas Welsh had one of the best games of his UCLA career, notching two points, six rebounds, four blocks in a 60-59 win over SMU to start the NCAA Tournament. He also made a key steal with 24 seconds left — making it possible for Bryce Alford to heave up his final, goaltended 3-point shot.

Asked what he was thinking when Alford’s shot was in the air, Welsh laughed and said: “That’s a great question. … Bryce was on fire all day. I thought it was a great look at it. I was just stunned when the guy went up and touched the ball.”

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Thomas Welsh makes third career start against Washington State

UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40) grabs a rebound over Long Beach State's David Samuels during a 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion on November 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr / Staff)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40) grabs a rebound over Long Beach State’s David Samuels during a 77-63 win on Nov. 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

Thomas Welsh made his third career start for UCLA on Sunday, replacing center Tony Parker in the lineup against Washington State.

Parker was stuck to the bench for tipoff at Pauley Pavilion because he had been late to a shootaround earlier in the day, but entered the game at the 14:40 mark of the first half. Welsh had also replaced Parker for games at Oregon State and Oregon in January, which the junior missed due to back spasms.

During that trip, the 7-foot freshman totaled 12 points and 11 rebounds in 59 combined minutes against the Beavers and the Ducks. UCLA lost both games.

Welsh is averaging 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 points on 43.9 percent shooting in his first season.

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Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s big men, preparation for Utah

Steve Alford talked to reporters today before UCLA’s practice, touching on the Bruins’ preparation for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 11 Utah at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes blew out UCLA in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4, winning 71-39.

Some of the main notes:

– Center Tony Parker is still “day-to-day” with back spasms. He returned to practice with UCLA on Tuesday, but only did non-contact work. Senior guard Norman Powell did not practice on Tuesday with an illness — the latest setback for him after a bruised hip and two dislocated fingers.

– If Parker isn’t ready to play against Utah, true freshman Thomas Welsh will likely make his third career start. But at this point in his career, the 7-footer is more of a jump shooter — one who isn’t capable of anchoring the inside-out offense that worked well during UCLA’s three-game winning streak. He has taken just 39.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, making 45.9 percent of them.

The key for Welsh, Alford said, is learning to initiate contact rather than bouncing away from it. The coach sees Welsh as a player who could be averaging around seven or eight points off the bench this season. Continue reading

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UCLA lands four-star center Thomas Welsh

After a slow start, UCLA is starting to form a solid recruiting class under first-year head coach Steve Alford.

The latest addition is four-star center Thomas Welsh, a local 7-footer whose stock shot up this past summer. The Loyola High senior picked the Bruins over Stanford and Cal, and should help shore up a frontcourt that loses seniors Travis and David Wear. Continue reading

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Prospect watch: Thomas Welsh

Thomas Welsh, 7-0, 240
Loyola | L.A. Rockfish
Scout: Four stars | Rivals: Four stars

Thomas Welsh isn’t a flashy player, but true 7-footers are rare at any level of basketball. The Loyola standout has boosted his stock significantly over the past few months, impressing coaches with soft hands. He’s not a dominant inside presence, but can hit a turnaround jumper or a 10-footer along the baseline. He can catch and shoot accurately from the elbow, and also showed nice form at the free-throw line. Very vocal on the defensive end, he uses his length well to grab boards and contest shots.

Welsh said he has spent this summer focusing on his footwork and quickness. A high-end projection for him could be former North Carolina All-American Eric Montross, who won an NCAA championship in 1993 and spent eight seasons in the NBA.

In addition to UCLA, Welsh is fielding offers from schools such USC, Cal, Gonzaga and Arizona State. He said he doesn’t have any visits planned yet for the near future, though he took an unofficial to Cal in June. He added that distance from home isn’t a factor.

Q: What schools are recruiting you the hardest right now?

Still the Pac-12 and WCC schools. It’s been pretty even.

Q: Do you plan on deciding by the early signing period in November? Continue reading

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