Above image of Aedan Welch provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- If there’s one thing that stands out about Aedan Welch, it is his consistent team-first attitude. It is the first thing that becomes evident when talking with the 6’5, 250 lb wing.
Sure, his silk-smooth three-point jump shot is sure to catch the eye of everyone in the arena, his ability to play both in the paint and on the perimeter creates a nightmare for opposing coaches to defend, and the fact that he has managed to balance majoring in Pre-Med while playing college basketball earns some recognition. But it is his selfless style of play, and his leadership mentality on and off the court, that are the center from which those things extend.
With Welch being the lone active senior on the UMHB men’s basketball team, considering Byrale Carter is out for the year, and having already made the decision to close out his collegiate career following this season, it would be easy to understand if the Liberty Hill, Texas native was focused on making these last two regular season games about his play, and enjoying the last few games of his collegiate career. But that is far from the approach Welch has taken.
In fact, he has approached it quite the opposite, seeing these final few games of his career as a chance to contribute to the beginning of something bigger for head coach Clif Carroll’s program.
“This team, they’re all young, they’re all different, this whole environment is new to them,” said Welch following a win over ETBU on February 13. “So a lot of it has been, yes, I can score, yes I can shoot it, but I want them to shoot the ball, and I want them to know that I want them to shoot it. I have four regular [season] and hopefully three in the [ASC] championship, so seven games left, tops. I want to give them the confidence so they can roll into next year and be the same.”
Now Welch’s number of games is down to five. Carroll did save three games that will likely be used to play a “postseason” type of event with the D3 national tournament having been canceled, but whether it be five games or eight games remaining, Welch’s point remains clear. He simply sees himself as a tool to help this program develop.
Looking back prior to taking the floor for his final regular season home game, Welch cannot help but be thankful for all the experiences, moments, and big wins that he experienced while a Crusader.
“I’ve met a lot of different people in a lot of different ways and I’m glad I came here,” said Welch.
If there is one particular home game that sticks out in Welch’s mind, you have to go all the way back to the 2016-17 season and a 120-112 double overtime loss to Hardin-Simmons.
“I remember my freshman year we played Hardin-Simmons,” recalls Welch. “And that was the best Hardin-Simmons team we’ve played against. They were all seniors, they shared the ball. It is a feeling like this, because you knew they were all a family. They were going to kill somebody for each other, you could just feel it. I think I scored one bucket, and I felt so lucky. It was like a little midrange ‘I hope he doesn’t block it kind of shot’. Then, every game this year here has been big. I’m cherishing every one of them.”
Of those “big games” in Belton this season came on the 13th of February, as Welch put 13 points on the board and pulled down seven rebounds in a game that was close from start to finish. We saw glimmers of Welch’s scoring ability in past seasons, but under Carroll’s system, he has truly been able to set up on the offensive end, whether that means posting up in the paint, or getting to the wing for an open three.
“Absolutely,” said Welch when asked if he has seen any changes in the program from his first season in 2016-17 to this year. “That comes with changes in coaches. But, personally, I fit this system better. This system is what I’m built for. Over the past five years, it’s been great. I count those guys as my family.”
Watching Welch go to work on the basketball court, it is easy to see why he has been so successful in majoring in Pre-Med. His attention to detail, work ethic, and confidence are infectious across the team. He is one of the players that the nationally acclaimed sportswriter John Feinstein was looking for when he wrote his book, “The Last Amateurs” on a small group of college basketball players who still see academics as their first priority, and play because of a love for the game, not the money that is likely to be promised after one season in the college ranks. Don’t get me wrong, every athlete at the D3 level fits into that category, considering there are no athletic scholarships and most will not go onto play professionally. But Welch goes beyond that definition, partially because of his major, and partially because of his tremendous ability to balance the workload of playing college hoops along with a rigorous amount of studying and classes.
“Majoring in biology and chemistry is hard for anybody, no matter what you’re doing and I tip my hat to everybody who’s done it,” said Welch. “But there is proof that people have done it, it’s not impossible. I’ve met so many different people from so many different backgrounds playing basketball and being in the academic realm, I only see it bettering myself and my experience.”
Interestingly, going into the medical field was not a lifelong desire of his, but reaching lives and serving others was.
“It was halfway through my true freshman year. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to help people. I wanted to change a lot of people’s lives and being a doctor is probably the best way to do that, and hopefully I’ll be able to roll that into something bigger. I don’t know what but that would be setting the foundation for running for something big.”
Before the March 6 contest against Howard Payne in Belton, Welch will be recognized for his contributions to both the basketball program and the school. The legacy he will leave behind on campus, what his teammates, coaches, and peers will remember him as, will be less about his stat lines and more about his character.
“It took some convincing this summer to get him to come back,” said UMHB head coach Clif Carroll. “I had to recruit him pretty hard but I’m sure glad he decided to play. He gives us some leadership, he has helped these young kids grow up, he’s kind of the mature guy on our team. He’s been a blessing this year, and a lot of fun to coach. Looking forward into his future, he’s getting married in a few months, and he’s going to be a great husband, and a great father.
“He’s a true D3 guy. He’s got his life balanced, he’s set, he gives us everything he has. He doesn’t slack on anything he does. We need to be on the lookout for more guys like Aedan.”