Thomas Welsh’s ‘incredible journey’ at UCLA is nearing its conclusion
His first collegiate game in Pauley Pavilion wasn’t all that memorable. He made one of six shots for three points and grabbed eight rebounds in 17 minutes during an exhibition against Azusa Pacific.
From those modest beginnings sprouted a prolific career for Thomas Welsh that will include its final home games this week.
UCLA’s games against Oregon State on Thursday and Oregon on Saturday will also mark the final home games for seniors GG Goloman, Ikenna Okwarabizie and Alec Wulff — as well as possibly a few other players, depending on whether anyone else forgoes remaining eligibility for the NBA draft. But Welsh will be the only senior departing with his name embedded in several school career-record lists.
Welsh ranks third in blocks (138), sixth in rebounds (935), 14th in field-goal accuracy (54.2%) and 45th in scoring (1,155 points). He could climb higher in each category with at least six games left in his career.
“It’s been an incredible journey, really,” Welsh said Tuesday. “It’s been a dream come true to be able to be an L.A. kid and be able to play for UCLA with my parents coming to the games and all that. It’s really been special.”
Welsh returned for his senior season rather than enter the NBA draft in part to enhance his three-point shooting and defensive technique. His strides in both areas have helped make him a late-season candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given annually to the top big man in college basketball. He’ll also leave UCLA with a degree in economics.
Welsh said he didn’t know whether he would get emotional Saturday when he walked onto his home court for the last time.
“It’s hard to imagine what it’s gonna be like until you’re kind of in that moment,” Welsh said. “It’s kind of the culmination of the four years when you’re out there doing all that stuff for senior night. So I haven’t really thought about it too much but it’s going to be a cool moment, I think.
“It’s a weird deal just because I remember my first game in here, an exhibition game, as a freshman like it was yesterday. The four years have flown by. It’s been an incredible ride and I’m just hoping to make the best [of it] this weekend.”
No makeup required
Six weeks ago, Bruins coach Steve Alford was in favor of rescheduling the game against Montana that was canceled in December because of wildfires near the UCLA campus.
His perspective has changed based on what the Grizzlies have done since then in Big Sky Conference play.
“They’re 13-0, so I don’t want any part of it now,” Alford said. “I wish we could have made that up but it just didn’t work for either one of our schedules.”
Alford noted that the game could just as easily be a loss as a win for the Bruins, so it’s not clear that playing it would benefit them. Montana is 20-5 overall and has an RPI of 91.
Alford said he’s getting new business cards to go with the new title he received last week. The cards will require the use of considerably more ink than the old ones.
Alford is now the Michael Price Family UCLA Head Basketball Coach as part of an arrangement in which the Bruins men’s and women’s basketball programs will receive $6.5 million to split from Jodi and Michael Price.
Alford said the money could be used to spruce up the locker rooms and lounges inside the new Mo Ostin Center as well as to make enhancements to the programs’ strength and nutrition programs, among other potential uses.
“There’s all kinds of things that are happening that you’re wanting to advance your program all the time with,” Alford said of emerging technology that could be used to help his team.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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