UCLA’s Thomas Welsh shows off new skills in exhibition win

Thomas Welsh found himself back inside Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night, in part because of the feedback he received during workouts for prospective employers.

Extend your range, he was told. Improve your lateral quickness to make you better defensively.

Message received.

The senior center shuffled over to contest a shot and grabbed the rebound. He spotted up for a three-pointer that dropped through the net. The game was less than a minute old.

Welsh continually flashed his new and old skills during the No. 21 Bruins’ 111-80 exhibition victory over State L.A. The 7-footer made 10 of 13 shots, including both of his three-pointers, on the way to 22 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in only 21 minutes.

Welsh made the only three-pointer he took last season but intends to make it a regular part of his arsenal.

“I’m feeling really confident with it,” Welsh said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing for me, really, because I know with my form I can make some shots, so it’s just kind of getting comfortable with those extra couple of feet out.”

The Bruins’ only exhibition before their season opener against Georgia Tech on Nov. 10 in Shanghai also featured a run-and-fun first look at the team’s seven-man freshman class.

It was a sparkling debut for point guard Jaylen Hands (12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds) and small forward Kris Wilkes (14 points), who combined for a second-half highlight when Hands threw a lob to Wilkes for an alley-oop dunk.

Freshman shooting guard LiAngelo Ball made a corner three-pointer for his first basket on the way to 11 points and freshman forward Cody Riley showed some tenacity by forcing a turnover in the backcourt before going in for a dunk.

Ball’s father, LaVar, caused one of the biggest stirs of the first half when he took his seat in the second row, earning a roll call from the student section. LaVar Ball was accompanied by youngest son LaMelo, who has committed to UCLA and is being home-schooled in the wake of a dispute between his father and his former coach at Chino Hills High.

LaVar Ball praised UCLA’s freewheeling style after the game and said if the team kept playing the same way it could win the national championship.

“If you would have had Lonzo on this team,” LaVar said, referring to his oldest son who spent last season with the Bruins before being drafted by the Lakers, “they’d get 150.”

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