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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UCLA moves center Tony Parker back into starting lineup

UCLA senior big man Tony Parker (23) returned to the starting lineup against Colorado on Saturday after five straight games as a reserve. (David Crane/Staff)

UCLA senior big man Tony Parker (23) returned to the starting lineup against Colorado on Saturday after five straight games as a reserve. (David Crane/Staff)

After five games on the bench, UCLA’s Tony Parker is back in the starting lineup — though not at his old spot.

Against Colorado on Saturday night, the 6-foot-9 big man became the Bruins’ No. 1 center, filling the role for the first time as a senior. For much of this season, the former four-star recruit played as a power forward next to 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsh. In the last five games, he took to the bench as head coach Steve Alford finally abandoned the “big-big” lineup — one that had become too much of a defensive liability.

Forward Jonah Bolden remained in the starting lineup for the sixth straight game, while Welsh became the team’s backup center for the first time this season. Earlier this week, Bolden was asked how playing next to Parker rather than Welsh changes his role on offense.

“I know Tom can shoot the ball better than Tony,” the sophomore said, “but Tony is more post, gets the ball lower. I can move off him. He gets the ball low, they double him, I cut. With Thomas, he gets the ball wide.”

Against the Buffaloes, the Bruins are (14-12, 5-8) trying to climb back to .500 in conference play in the midst of the most underwhelming season of the Alford era.

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USC 80, UCLA 61: Thomas Welsh

Thomas Welsh talked about UCLA’s 80-61 loss at USC, one that the Bruins’ opened by falling into a 9-0 hole. According to the sophomore center, the ugly offensive start trickled into the team’s defensive play too.

“That’s not the way it should be,” he said. “You should always be able to play hard on the defensive side of the ball, but we just weren’t making shots. It was downhill from there.”

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