When Scout.com's Josh Gershon first wrote about Thomas Welsh, back in 2011, he described the lumbering big man as having a good work ethic, but obviously Welsh was a work in progress. As a sophomore that season, he clearly had a very long way to go to project as a high-major starter.
Even early last season, as a junior, he had failed to convince Pac-12 coaching staffs sufficiently. He drew an offer from Santa Clara, but others — including USC, UCLA and Arizona State — needed more time to evaluate.
His incline began in earnest at the turn of the new year. By last January, Welsh had established himself as one of the most improved players in the West, and he picked up additional offers from the Sun Devils, Trojans (prior staff), Cal and Portland.
Welsh's appeal went national over the summer. He became one of the storymakers at the Pangos All-American Camp in June, which prepared him for the critical July evaluation period. He performed in outstanding fashion late in the month, including an impressive head-to-head showing versus elite peer Myles Turner in Las Vegas. Welsh had arrived as a blue-chip center, and his recruitment from that point forward reflected his improvement.
By this fall, he had welcomed scholarship offers from UCLA, Notre Dame, Colorado, Stanford and Gonzaga, among others. His visit slate has included official trips to see the Bruins, Buffs and Bears (oh, my?).
He's expected to pick a winner in time to sign during the November period.
It should go without saying that size stands as any center's greatest asset. And Welsh, at 7-0, 245 pounds, is a very big young man. Scientists estimate that there are only 20,000 people over seven-feet tall in the entire world, roughly three per every million humans.
And when you cull the non-males and people who aren't basketball age, Welsh's unique height becomes even more of a rarity within the game. For awhile there, his height overshadowed every other aspect of his hoops ability. But over time, he has been able to showcase tremendous hands, improved shooting touch, impressive post footwork and vastly superior confidence.
Welsh simply isn't the same player now he was a year ago, or perhaps even six months ago. He establishes post position not with quickness or brute strength, but rather with intelligent movement and alertness. He loves to fire turnaround jump shots and also wields impressive jump hooks. His shooting range extends to 15 feet, and therefore he's likely to become a force either posting up or as a high screener.
Meanwhile, he has improved his rebounding and is able to pull down boards in traffic thanks to his sure hands. He also blocks some shots thanks to his height and timing.
A lack of quickness and speed is what hinders Welsh most. Games that become very uptempo can leave him struggling to change ends, and fleeter opponnts can rack up easy buckets simply by outrunning him downcourt. His interior reactions also aren't explosive, and thus sometimes he fails to corral rebounds even when he owns inside position.
In some respects, Welsh more closely resembles basketball's successful big men from the 1980s and ‘90s. During that era a player could afford to be more of a boxed-in specialist, but so many players carry greater skill versatility now that he'll need to compensate for some missing components.
Fortunately, he'll be taller than most other post players and therefore will have an extra bit of size to help negate the difference.
Though his game is methodical, Welsh is tall and skilled enough to score even when defenders can predict his moves. He'll never be a stretch forward, but Welsh's shooting also should boost his career. The ability to fire in jumpers coming out of high screening position is a talent that could carry him far.
Along with that, he's very comfortable scoring with his back to the basket and has the frame to support significant weight gain. Given that he's already a talented back-to-the-basket scorer, that will make him even more dangerous.
Fans are fair to question how he'd stack up against the NBA's slew of top-notch, athletic big men, but for college Welsh should enjoy immediate opportunities to hang points on the board. And if he keeps improving as substantially as he has been, he could end up surpassing even the top-50 status he enjoys presently.