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” »