Last June the City/Suburban Hoops Report highlighted Naperville North’s Tom Welch, calling the 6-7 forward “arguably the most overlooked prospect in the Class of 2019.”
While Welch launched into the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects a year ago, he remained overlooked and sidestepped by others throughout his junior campaign. Despite the Hoops Report’s superlatives, the “overlooked” and “underrated” remained true over the next nine months.
Welch did pick up offers from Kent State and Western Illinois last summer. But he was still, nonetheless, too big of an afterthought considering the wide-ranging game he played with, along with the size and potential he possessed.
“I try not to let it bother me,” says Welch of the lack of notoriety up to this point. “At the same time, you look forward to playing against the players that are talked about more. I also know if I put in the time, put in the work, the rest will take care of itself.”
This past season he was an athletic and versatile threat as he averaged 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
After two weeks on the club circuit, the word is now finally spreading as his game, confidence and comfort level are all coming together. Welch is figuring it out and realizing what he can become and be as a basketball player.
“I was a little nervous on the circuit last spring,” Welch admitted of his foray into the club basketball circuit. “I wasn’t real confident in the beginning, but I kept working and the more time I spent in the gym the more I realized what I can do. I realized that I can do more. With that comes confidence.”
Welch has put in some work during the two live periods while playing with the Illinois Wolves. Last week he added offers from Furman, Wofford, Ball State, Brown and Florida Atlantic. Loyola and coach Porter Moser offered on Sunday.
“It’s great to get these offers,” says Welch. “That time has come for me and I will keep working and hopefully I can have a few more options for myself.”
This much will be true going forward: a boatload of offers are on the horizon for a player who is now among the Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2019.
When it’s all said and done, this will be one of the most highly coveted mid-major prospects in Illinois and will ultimately get some looks from high-major programs between now and July. That’s how much the Hoops Report believes in the talent and upside of the agile and athletic Welch, a player who is filling out physically while gaining a belief in oneself.
A standout goalkeeper for a state championship soccer team the past two years as a sophomore and junior, Welch is a fluid athlete for his size. His physical profile is impressive in that he will easily add weight, strength and fill out naturally. He’s a skilled 4-man who can move, fill lanes in transition and can run, catch and finish with terrific hands.
Welch is regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the state as well, but he says he’s “almost definitely basketball.”
“I grew up playing soccer, playing soccer with my friends so it was something I’ve had fun with,” says Welch. “But at the same time my focus is on basketball. Soccer also helps prevent me from getting burnt out with basketball.”
While he must become more consistent with it, he has range out to the three-point line, along with a soft touch around the basket and shows a variety of moves out of the mid-post area. Plus, he impressed this past weekend with his hustle and backbone. There was a clear willingness to stick his nose in things and compete, both around the basket and especially defensively.
There were plenty who took notice these past two weeks of a player that has steadily climbed and is reaching the potential that was advertised a year ago.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreportTags: Naperville North