Over the course of the past two years, seven-foot senior center Thomas Welsh (Loyola HS, Los Angeles) has steadily improved his game, a consistent upward trend that saw a burst during the recent spring and summer evaluation periods. Indeed, with particularly impressive performances at June's Pangos All-American Camp and July's Fab 48 Tournament in Las Vegas, the once unheralded and slower-footed Welsh appears poised to take over the top center spot on the West Coast. His no. 75 overall ranking in the 2014 class is also bound to rise.
"Welsh is a skilled center…who has one of the best pairs of hands in the country with very good size," said Scout.com's Josh Gershon. "He has a hook shot but is especially good shooting from about eight feet out and has soft touch around the paint. He is a good defender who blocks shots and rebounds well in his area. Welsh is probably the top center prospect out west in 2014."
And as for concerns about Welsh's athleticism, it may indeed be the case that he will never "wow," but Gershon has seen marked progress as of late.
"He's not the most mobile center," he said. "But he has made strides there over a couple of years and continues to grow into his body."
Welsh himself echoes these sentiments, crediting much of his on-court improvement to physical development and maturation.
"The main thing is that my coordination has increased and I've been able to slow down a bit," he recently told The Bootleg. "I guess that's just from being able to get a better feel for my body. My confidence has also increased, so it's just a lot easier now."
Several West Coast programs have thus come to prioritize Welsh, with Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Gonzaga, UCLA , and USC all having already extended offers. Stanford, which earned an unofficial visit from Welsh in mid-June, also finds itself heavily involved, having recruited the Loyola prospect throughout his high school career.
"Stanford was really nice when I went up," said Welsh. "All the coaches are really good people; I really like them all."
And while the Cardinal have not yet extended an offer, Welsh seems relatively confident that it may soon be on its way.
"I haven't received anything yet, but they [the Stanford staff] said they were going to give me an application," he said. "I guess the application is the offer. I think that's what it is, but I'm not completely sure to be honest."
As for factors that may play into his decision, Welsh noted the importance of a school with a strong academic reputation, mentioning in particular that he was interested in studying business as an undergraduate. Moreover, while his list of suitors may lead one to believe that Welsh is bent on a West Coast destination, that may not necessarily be the case.
"The West Coast would be nice—there's obviously great weather and stuff," he said. "But there are some really great academic and athletic schools on the East Coast, too, so I'm not restricted to the West."
A largely tight-lipped and reserved Welsh, however, shied away from naming any East Coast schools in particular, a play-it-close-to-the-vest approach that he appears to have adopted in the recruitment process.
Welsh also spoke of potentially teaming up with top Stanford point guard target Robert Cartwright, who is his Rockfish AAU teammate. The Bootleg recently profiled Cartwright and his recruitment.
"I love playing with him," Welsh said. "He's a great point guard and a great person. I really like to be around him. And we have discussed it a little bit, possibly playing more [together] in the future. But who knows? It would be nice, but anything can happen. It's not like, wherever Rob goes, I'm going to go. I'm just going to see what the best fit is for me, and if it happens to be where Rob ends up, then all for the better, I guess."
And as for a decision timeframe, Welsh does not seem particularly close, telling The Bootleg that, as of now, there is no short list of schools. "I'm still open to recruiting at this point. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to cut down a list and then go from there."
Andrew Santana graduated from Stanford University in 2013. He worked as the play-by-play man for the Stanford men's basketball team on KZSU. You can follow him on Twitter @asantan1 or reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!