Wild Blue Yonder

Where do four-star centers go to get away from it all? Family reunions in the Cowboy State. Thomas Welsh catches up with BearTerritory after a productive July which saw his stock soar.

Thomas Welsh isn't exactly the hunting-and-fishing, outdoors-y type, but next week, he and his mother's side of the family – over 30 people in total – will descend upon Jackson Hole, Wy., for a bit of a family reunion. It'll be a welcome diversion for the 7-foot, four-star center prospect out of Los Angeles Loyola, but even out in the wilderness, there's just one thing he hopes he can find: A basketball hoop.

"That's all I need," Welsh laughs. "I'm just going up there with my parents and hoping for the best. My mom is a big family, with eight brothers and sisters, so it's very rare that we can all get together, so it's kind of a middle ground, I guess, where the travel is all equal. It's a pretty good spot, It should be fun."

Welsh has earned a respite from the world of basketball and recruiting, after a stellar July which saw him raise his already-considerable stock in front of legions of college coaches.

The last Saturday of the AAU season in Las Vegas, Welsh matched up against five-star center Myles Turner with elimination on the line.

"I heard one of my teammates say that he was a really good player, so I was definitely looking forward to the match-up," Welsh says. "I just didn't want to go home. I've really enjoyed my three years with the Rockfish and I wanted to keep playing with my team as long as I could, so I went out there and played as hard as I could."

Welsh showed off his improved touch by hitting a right jump hook and five mid-range jump shots en route to sending Turner home. Some of the most noticeable improvements to Welsh's game this summer has been his touch and his increased range.

"I think it's just the confidence that's come with time," says Welsh. "I've been able to hit the 15-foot jump shot, but my confidence has kept going up, so now, I just don't even have to think about it. It's just my shot, now."

Welsh has also displayed much more comfort in his own skin, and increased physical maturity. Welsh says that it's just a matter of growing into his 7-foot, 245-pound frame.

"I think that's definitely part of it, and I think that I'm just getting more and more confident as games go by," he says. "I just do what I can do and execute, I guess."

As good as he is on the hardwood, though, the way Welsh has handled his recruitment should get him a seat at the World Series of Poker. While he's been one of the most coveted big men on the West Coast this cycle, with USC, UCLA, California, Santa Clara, Portland, Colorado, Gonzaga, Pacific, Saint Louis, San Francisco and Arizona State having extended offers, he holds virtually all of them in the same esteem.

"It really is going to be a tough decision," says Welsh. "I'm really going to have to hunker down and get a lot of information and make sure that the decision I make is the right one. They all have really great individual qualities. They all have their ups and downs. I'm just not really sure yet. I'm trying to figure this all out, too. I'm still not very sure."

Having recently visited Berkeley, USC, UCLA and Santa Clara, Welsh still demures when asked to compare them.

"They're all phenomenal campuses," says Welsh. "All of the coaching staffs are really great. There's a lot to like about each of them. They each have individual qualities that make them stand out, one from the next."

Since the AAU season concluded, Welsh has been researching as much as he can, tallying the positives and negatives.

"It's kind of been resting my body a little bit. I've been really researching the colleges, seeing about their quality of business schools and other types of schools that they have there, the basketball program, the players they have, some of that stuff," says Welsh. "There hasn't been anything that I hadn't been aware of. It's been the same information that I'd gotten before, so nothing has really stood out."

Maybe a bit of time in the great outdoors will help give him some clarity.

"We're going on vacation this week, and then probably I'll take some unofficial visits, then it's improving my body for the Loyola season," Welsh says. "I'm looking forward to it."

As far as when his decision could come, that, too, is up in the air.

"It kind of depends," he says. "If I know a school is the right fit for me and have a really good feel about them, I'd probably commit [in November], but I'm not really sure yet. I would still want to take my time and make sure that what I do is best for me."

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