LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky men’s basketball team will feature three walk-ons this season with the addition of guard Riley Welch, formerly of UC Irvine and College of the Desert.
Welch, a 6-foot guard from Colorado, has enrolled at Kentucky and will be a junior for the 2019-20 season. He will be immediately eligible.
“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. “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.”
Welch will join freshman forward Brennan Canada and redshirt freshman guard/forward Zan Payne as this season’s walk-ons. Welch suited up for UC Irvine in 2017-18 and played last season at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California.
He saw action in 27 games as a true freshman at UC Irvine and scored 14 points. Last season, at College of the Desert, Welch appeared in 27 games. He averaged 8.2 points for the Roadrunners in addition to 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 31 made shots from behind the arc.
“Riley, like his father (Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach John Welch), is a true gym rat,” UK head coach John Calipari 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. I’m excited to have him in the program and be a part of our family.”
Originally out of Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado, Welch was a 2016 Chauncey Billups regional champion. His school reached the Colorado High School Activities Association Final Four in 2016, and three times it won its league.
Welch was a two-time all-conference and two-time All-Bergen Country player in high school. He was also a Ridgewood News All-Suburban First Team selection in 2015.
With Welch’s addition, Kentucky now has eight total newcomers for the upcoming season (six true freshmen, Welch and graduate transfer Nate Sestina).
UK lost its top four scorers from last season to the professional ranks but has reloaded with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, in addition to returners Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards.
In every season in the Calipari era, the Wildcats have signed a top-three recruiting class according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which tallies major recruiting rankings and plugs them into a formula to calculate a consensus ranking.
Welch will join his new teammates at the end of the month when they return for the fall semester. The first day of classes is Aug. 26.
Other than Welch, all members of the 2019-20 team were on campus this summer for classes and workouts.
The season begins Oct. 12 with Big Blue Madness, followed by the Blue-White Game and two exhibition slates before the regular season begins Nov. 5 vs. Michigan State at the State Farm Champions Classic in New York.