Thomas Welsh had one of the best games in recent UCLA basketball history and was named PAC 12 player of the week:
In UCLA's two wins last week, Welsh averaged 18.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Welsh registered team-highs in points (21) and rebounds (11) in UCLA's 87-77 win over No. 1 Kentucky last Thursday. He had his second consecutive double-double on Sunday night, totaling 15 points and 10 rebounds in an 83-76 win against Long Beach State.
UCLA earned its first victory over the nation's No. 1-ranked team since toppling Arizona in overtime in a first-round Pac-10 Tournament game on March 13, 2003. The Bruins' victory marked the first time any Pac-12 team (as a member of the Pac-10 or Pac-12) was unranked and knocked off the nation's No. 1 team in non-conference play since Dec. 1, 1986, when UCLA downed North Carolina, 89-84.
Welsh has become UCLA's first player to secure Pac-12 Player of the Week honors since Norman Powell earned his third weekly award of the year last season (on March 2, 2015).
I think there can be no argument that Welsh was the star of the Kentucky game. When was the last time a UCLA player had a career high in rebounds against the #1 team in country? Furthermore, while other players had moments in the Kentucky game, Welsh was clearly the best player in the game and completely unstoppable on offense.
After beating #1 Kentucky, there is a lot of optimism versus the pessimism just one game before. As I wrote after the game, this looked like the same team just dialed in and playing well, with one exception. That exception was Thomas Welsh. It is important that he followed up a "perfect" game against Kentucky with a very good game against Long Beach State.
Welsh's emergence could be a real game changer for UCLA and its season. Welsh has a beautiful quick and high release on his shot. In a very real sense on offense he is that great mid-range shooting four that UCLA had in recent years with Travis Wear and a few years back with Don Maclean. On Defense he is the Center where he has become a good help defender in the paint and a force on the boards.
The latter is a big surprise. Welsh only had one double figure rebound game (against the midgets of Monmouth) going into last week. Back to back double digit rebound games is very impressive and is legitimately a reason for optimism for UCLA basketball.
It is also shocking because the Twin Towers approach is working which I thought was not possible. To be clear, I thought it could work on offense. But Parker is in the best shape of his career and doing pretty good against fours. Welsh on the other hand is looking like a potential dominant Center type.
A great test of Thomas Welsh will be this week against Gonzaga. Before the season I would have given them the advantage with bigs, now I am not so sure. It will be another test of Welsh and Parker.
Regardless, Thomas Welsh improved play was key to the Kentucky win and will be for the future of this team.
One last thought, more than any other player Thomas Welsh earned the player of the week. No one practices harder than Thomas Welsh.
Congratulations to Thomas Welsh!