Calipari says 2019 will be a breakout year for returning players
A third walk-on will join Zan Payne and Brennan Canada on Kentucky’s basketball team this coming season, the program announced Thursday. He is Riley Welch, a 6-foot guard who previously played at UC Irvine and the College of the Desert.
Welch, the son of Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach John Welch, will be a junior. He will have two years of eligibility.
Welch played in 27 games as a “true” freshman at UC Irvine. He scored 14 points. At the College of the Desert, he played in 27 games. He averaged 8.2 points, 5.0 assists and made 31 three-point shots. Incidentally, former UK quarterback Stephen Johnson played for the College of the Desert before transferring to Kentucky.
“I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to be joining the greatest program in the history of college basketball,” Welch said in a news release. “There is nothing better than University of Kentucky basketball, and I still can’t believe how fortunate I am to be able to learn every day from a Hall of Fame coach as well as compete against the best players in the country day in and day out.”
In the news release, UK Coach John Calipari noted Welch’s work ethic.
“Riley, like his father, is a true gym rat,” he said. “Riley wants to get in the gym and work, so he will be a great addition to this group. I’ve known Riley and his family for a long time. He comes from a basketball family that loves this game and loves challenges.”
Welch played high school basketball in Littleton, Colo. He was a two-time all-conference and all-county player.
Welch becomes the eighth newcomer on UK’s team for next season. That includes six “true” freshmen, plus graduate transfer Nate Sestina.
2019-20 UK basketball roster
Dontaie Allen, 6-6 freshman forward
Keion Brooks, 6-7 freshman forward
x-Brennan Canada, 6-7 freshman forward
Ashton Hagans, 6-3 sophomore guard
Johnny Juzang, 6-6 freshman forward
Tyrese Maxey, 6-3 freshman guard
EJ Montgomery, 6-10 sophomore forward
x-Zan Payne, 6-4 redshirt freshman guard/forward
Immanuel Quickley, 6-3 sophomore guard
Nick Richards, 6-11 junior forward
Nate Sestina, 6-9 graduate transfer forward/center
x-Riley Welch, 6-0 junior guard
Kahlil Whitney, 6-7 freshman forward