Welch gives Western Md. hope for the future He's been bright light in season of injuries

February 07, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Western Maryland junior forward Rolando Welch is having the kind of season that simply can't go without notice.

The Green Terrors are struggling through an injury-filled 4-14 season, with three of its original starters gone for the season. That hasn't tarnished the fine season Welch is having or the optimism he has about next year.

"I just try to go out there and do my best," Welch said.

"I just let the game come to me and if it comes, the points and rebounds usually come with it. We've had a tough season with injuries, but we're still working hard and staying very positive. I'm looking forward to coming back next year. Everyone is expected back and our spirits are up."

Welch, 6 feet 4, is averaging 19.8 points and 13.8 rebounds. In Middle Atlantic Conference play, he leads the Southern Division in scoring (18.3) and rebounding (14.2) through nine conference games.

"He does so many different things well and means so much to this team," said Western Maryland coach Nick Zoulias.

"He plays strong defense, rebounds well on both ends and is our go-to. He's around 6-4 1/2 but plays a lot bigger. He's got long arms and jumps extremely well -- he's a quick jumper."

Welch sees himself as just "one of the guys" who's trying to get the most out of his college days.

A sociology major, he enjoys playing Nintendo, going to the movies and hanging out with the guys and also takes time to hit the books. He plays intramural sports during the off-season and participates in other campus activities. As he puts it, "I'm basically loving life."

When he steps onto the basketball court, it's a different story. That's when he's the guy at Western Maryland College.

"He's an exciting basketball player," Zoulias said. "He's not a one-dimensional player. He has good low-post moves, is adept at hitting the 15-footer and even has shown some three-point range. He'll score off the dribble or off screens."

He saved his best (at least so far) for a packed Gill Center last month against Gettysburg.

In the teams' previous three meetings at Gill, visiting Gettysburg went home with three wins by a combined total of seven points. Welch just about single-handedly made sure it didn't happen a fourth time.

When the night was over, he scored a career-high 36 points and added 21 rebounds to lead the Green Terrors to an 86-79 win. No player had put up those kinds of numbers at the Gill Center since it opened in 1984.

"He was certainly the difference in the game," said Gettysburg coach George Petrie. "There were a couple of times I looked looked out on the floor and thought I saw a 'S' on his chest and a cape on his back -- he was just outstanding. We just couldn't control his athleticism."

Welch simply took over down the stretch. First a jumper, then a steal and dunk, followed by a left-handed layup that split three players and capped by a blocked shot at the other end. All coming in the closing minutes.

"He just decided there was no way we were going to lose and took things in his hands," Zoulias said.

It's the kind of night Welch likely will enjoy more frequently next season.

"My brother [Alejandro] was there to see me play along with my parents and sister. Even my brother-in-law came," he said.

"After the game, my brother picked me up and just said, 'You're the man!' "

Along with Alejandro, Welch has another brother, Ricardo, who plays at Division II Tennessee Lincoln. Both are older and have taught the younger Rolando some things.

"I still can't beat one of my brothers [Ricardo], but now I can beat the other [Alejandro] -- it's usually a one- or two-point game. But ,, both have really taught me a lot about the game. Ricardo comes back in the summer and shows me different inside moves and other tricks."

He played just his senior season at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High in Montgomery County before coming to Western Maryland. At Bethesda, he played on a guard-oriented team and was looked on mainly to rebound. Zoulias came to watch one of the guards when he came across Welch.

With five seniors returning, it was much of the same his freshman season at Western Maryland. He still saw time in all 24 games and averaged more than five points and rebounds.

"I always knew I could shoot the ball," Welch said.

"In high school we had the guards and then there were seven seniors my first year here, so I wasn't really looked on to score much. By my sophomore year, I was more of a primary scorer and this year they're looking to go to me even more."

His scoring output has doubled with each year. He averaged 10.6 points last season while pulling down 7.8 rebounds. His 20-point average this year makes one wonder what he can do

next season.

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