Preps Talk

Naperville North's Tom Welch thriving in basketball after soccer stardom

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Naperville North's Tom Welch thriving in basketball after soccer stardom

Naperville North senior Tom Welch is the reigning Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year in Illinois as a goalie for the state champion Huskies. But basketball is the sport that is calling to him as the 6-foot-7 Welch is starting to excel on the hardwood as well.

Welch will return in net for Naperville North for his senior season. But for the past two offseasons, basketball has been his primary focus of development as the versatile forward is developing a bigger reputation.

Earning high-major scholarship attention with a lot of college coaches watching his play during July, Welch is looking to take unofficial visits to Clemson, Ball State, Belmont and Loyola over the next several weeks as his recruitment begins to flourish in basketball.

The youngest of four siblings, who all played sports growing up, Welch would always tag along to games and watch. Competing against older siblings and older kids helped give him a natural competitive edge to get better. Since joining the Illinois Wolves travel program after his sophomore varsity basketball season, Welch has turned into a Division I prospect -- thanks in large part to his work ethic.

"I love winning. One thing, especially with basketball, is progress is addictive. Especially working out. I remember being a twig freshman year and seeing the growth to where I am now," Welch said. "That's something that I enjoy -- getting better. Improving my handle. Every little piece, you want to get better at. I've seen my game grow so much in the last two years that I just want to keep doing it."

Besides being a good run-and-jump athlete, Welch has developed good enough ball handling and passing skills to help run press break on offense. Being 6-foot-7 enables Welch to see over the top of some opposing defenses as he fires laser passes to cutters. Being a soccer player, and having backgrounds in other sports, has helped Welch see the angles and areas where teammates are heading.

"I think playing soccer helps with that. I think being able to see the court is the same way as a goalie and a soccer player," Welch said. "You kind of see the gaps and the zones and how people move and stuff. I think just being an athlete and growing up and playing so many sports has helped me a lot. And that's helped me become more of a guard instead of a big."

Although known more as a big man at the high school level with Naperville North, Welch is hoping to develop more of his perimeter skills during the next several months. Every day requires a trip to the gym to shoot and handle the ball while weights are three-to-four times a week. 

When soccer season starts, Welch will still be able to lift, but the time for basketball skill work will decrease a little bit. Promising basketball future aside, Welch is trying to complete a storied high school soccer career.

A two-time all-state performer at goalie heading into senior season, Welch recorded 19 shutouts last season -- including seven straight in the postseason. Playing soccer with his friends since grade school, Welch had success on youth teams that traveled to national events at places like Disney World. 

"That's when I fell in love with soccer. The friendships. We were all athletic and we were winning so it was fun," Welch said.

Playing goalie wasn't even something Welch did regularly until he started high school, as his coaches thought he might be a good fit. Since making the switch, Welch has flourished as one of the best goalies in the country as he's been named to several All-American teams after his play last season.

"It's pretty unbelievable. Because I don't think there's enough credit I can give my defense and my coaches and just the entire team. Because without the success we had this season, none of these rewards would have come my way. It's pretty crazy," Welch said.

The success in soccer has also made Welch think about his athletic future. But the pull of basketball has become overpowering since Welch joined the Wolves and played in the competitive national structure of the Under Armour Association. Welch's blossoming basketball skill level has opened up a new level of possibilities for senior season. 

"It's crazy to see my name for soccer nationally when I don't put as much time in. Sometimes, it makes me reconsider, like, 'oh, should I be playing soccer more?' Welch said. "But I just love basketball a little bit more, so I'm sticking with that."

High School Lites Football Roundup Week 5

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

High School Lites Football Roundup Week 5

High School Lites is back with an action-packed Week 5 full of thrilling matchups. NBC Sports Chicago has the highlights of some of the top matchups from Friday's games.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Batavia (episode 5)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: South Elgin football

VIEWER'S CHOICE GAMES OF THE WEEK: Oswego East beats Plainfield South 29-0

WINTRUST ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Vinnie Panico

FRIDAY'S TOP 25 SCORES:

(1) Lincoln-Way East 38, Lincoln-Way Central 0

(2) Nazareth Academy 45, Benet Academy 7

(3) Batavia 41, Wheaton South 20

(4) Homewood-Flossmoor 28 Lincoln-Way West, 14

(5) Brother Rice 20 Providence Catholic, 0

Lake Zurich 23, (6) Stevenson 20

(7) Mount Carmel 28, Marmion Academy 7

(9) Simeon 48, Perspectives 13

(10) Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 6

(11) Loyola-Academy 21, St. Ignatius 14 (OT)

(12) Maine South 21, (16) Evanston 13

(13) Oswego 49. Plainfield East 0

(15) Richards 50, Shepard 14

(17) Phillips 49, Morgan Park 0

Conant 21, (18) Barrington 12

(19) Willowbrook 20, Hinsdale South 10

(20) Naperville Central 56, Metea Valley 13

(21) Bolingbrook 35, Bradley-Bourbonnais 13

(22) Montini 29, St. Rita 13

(24) New Trier 59, Niles West 0

(25) Hillcrest 27, Lemont 7

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Kenwood 46, Back of the Yards 6

Notre Dame 45, Marian Central Catholic 6

Warren 24, Lake Forest 10

Curie 13, Hubbard 6

SATURDAY'S TOP 25 GAMES

Dundee-Crown at (8) Cary-Grove

Downers Grove North at (14) Glenbard West 

York at (23) Hinsdale Central 

High School Lites Preview: Week Five

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites Preview: Week Five

NBC Sports Chicago will have cameras across Chicagoland covering the biggest high school football on the Week Five edition of High School Lites, Friday at 11:00 p.m. Can Notre Dame keep rolling and beat Marian Central Catholic in ESCC play? Can Benet Academy slow Nazareth's high flying offense? Can Wheaton South detour Batavia's drive to the DuKane Conference title? Will Maine South remain the kings of the Central Suburban South or will Evanston have other ideas? And which side of the bitter rivalry are you on...the (Lincoln-Way) East side or the (Lincoln-Way) Central side?

All games are Friday unless otherwise noted. Numbers in parantheses reflect the latest @NBCSPreps Power Rankings.

Thursday: Curie vs Hubbard at Gately Stadium, 7:15 p.m.

EDGY's Take: First-year head coach Arthur Ray Jr. was able to get his Condors (1-3) in the win column with a victory over Taft last week. Curie has played a very difficult non-conference slate. They will feature senior big back AJ Sanya and QB Damarius Johns. As for Hubbard and veteran head coach Elton Harris, they boast a standout, two-way lineman in senior D-1 recruit Kenny Givens. Keep an eye on senior WR/DB Montrell Edmonds as well. Can the Hubbard defense slow down AJ Sanya and the Condors? Can Curie prevent Hubbard from breaking open big plays? 

EDGY's Pick: Curie 22 Hubbard 20

Kenwood at Back of the Yards, 4:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Both Kenwood (4-0, 1-0) and Back of the Yards (4-0, 1-0) are looking to get a leg up in the CPL Illini Prairie State conference race with a win this week. Coach Sinque Turner of Kenwood will rely on several key names including senior WR/DB Mark Aitken (NIU). As for Back of the Yards, head coach Sheamus Murphy features a loaded roster. Keep an eye out on OL/DL Kevin Pacheco. Can Back of the Yards slow down Kenwood's speed and big play potential?

EDGY's Pick: Kenwood 27 Back of the Yards 12

Lincoln-Way Central at (1) Lincoln-Way East, 7:00 p.m.


EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East (4-0, 2-0) has been piling up the points (178) so far this season. Coach Rob Zvonar has the Griffins offense clicking; they're led by Illinois State commit QB Jack Baltz. The first team offense hasn't played a full four quarters yet in 2018. East's defense is also a strength. Don't be surprised if LB Gus Christensen and junior DE Adrian Wilson make some plays. Lincoln-Way Central (3-1, 3-0), under head coach Jeremy Cordell, will look to establish the running game. They'll get the football into the hands of RB Conner McWilliams and RB Justin Ellis as much as possible. Can Central's offense run the football against the East's defense?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 37 Lincoln-Way Central 21

Marian Central Catholic at Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Marian Central Catholic (3-1, 1-1), coached by Mike Maloney, has been getting a big season so far from QB Patsy Ricciardi and RB Luke Rogers. The Hurricanes defense will be tested this week. Notre Dame (3-1, 1-1), under veteran coach in Mike Hennessey, has some weapons on offense led by senior RB Ty Gavin and sophomore QB Anthony Sales. Whose defense comes ready to play for four quarters this Friday? 

EDGY's Pick: Notre Dame 28 Marian Central Catholic 21

Benet at (2) Nazareth, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Benet Academy (3-1, 1-1) is coming off a loss last week to Notre Dame. The Redwings will go back to work on Friday with a major task: trying to slow down one of the state's most explosive offenses in Nazareth Academy (4-0, 2-0). Benet's offense is anchored by junior QB Colin Gillespie and a strong running game with RB Ben Hickey. Their defense is also a strength. Watch for senior DL Jack Benish to make some plays. As for the Roadrunners, head coach Tim Racki has gotten a big year so far from sophomore QB JJ McCarthy. Nazareth also hase a couple of big time playmakers in the likes of senior WR Michael Love and senior WR/DB Diamond Evans. The defense has experience. Keep an eye on senior linemen Cameron Leach and Nathan Lugo. Can the Benet defense limit Nazareth's big play ability?

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth 31 Benet 21

Wheaton Warrenville South at (3) Batavia, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Veteran head coach Ron Muhitch has his Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers (4-0, 2-0) playing well and clicking in all three phases. They will look to establish the run with junior RB Jake Arthurs and QB Noah Henkel. WR Jack Olson is also a top-notch kicker/punter. On defense, the Tigers have allowed just 17 points this season. Batavia (4-0, 2-0) also wants to run the football. Keep an eye out for RB Art Taylor and the play-action passing game. That area of their offense has improved each week under QB Jack Meyers. Batavia's defense features two D-1 names in senior LB Luke Weerts (North Dakota State) and OLB Michael Jansey Jr. (Northwestern). Can the Tigers run the football against the Batavia defense? Can the Batavia offense keep the Wheaton South defense on their heels?

EDGY's Pick: Batavia 27 Wheaton South 17

Warren at Lake Forest, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Lake Forest (2-2, 2-0) struggled a bit early out of the gates but has now won two straight North Suburban conference games, including a big win last week over Lake Zurich. The Scouts have a potent offense led by QB James Swartout and senior WR Ryan Cekay (Colgate). Junior DL Rylie Mills is already a nationally sought-after recruit in the Class of 2020. Warren Township (3-1, 2-0) lost their season opener to Barrington but has since put together three straight wins. On offense, the Blue Devils will get the football into the hands of RB Martin Walker Jr.  Warren's defensive line is a strength behind senior Zach Pelland and junior DT Willis Singleton, Jr. Can the Lake Forest offense move the football against the Blue Devils defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Warren Township 28 Lake Forest 27

(12) Maine South at (16) Evanston, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Maine South (3-1) and head coach Dave Inserra opens Central Suburban South conference play after a strong non-conference showing, including last week's win over Conant. Senior QB Cole Dow has been making more and more progress after filling in for injured starting QB Bobby Inserra. Also, take note of senior RB/LB Jimmy Bartell and junior D-1 recruit OL/DL Peter Skoronski. Evanston (4-0) has been on a roll. They raised a lot of eyebrows in last week's surprise 32-12 win over Barrington. Wildkits head coach Mike Burzawa has weapons on offense including senior QB Ben Tarpey and junior RB Quadre Nicholson. The defense has played well, allowing just 58 points in four weeks. Can Evanston's defense keep Maine South's offense in check? Will Hawks starting QB Bobby Inserra come back this week? Can the Maine South defense slow down the Kits' explosive offense?

EDGY's Pick: Maine South 35 Evanston 28

(5) Brother Rice at Providence, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Brother Rice (4-0, 1-0) is coming off a big 35-3 win over Loyola. The Crusaders have already doubled their win total from a season ago. They've received a big start to the season from senior QB John Bean. He's truly a dual threat in the Rice offense; their line play is also a strength. Providence Catholic (4-0, 1-0), under head coach Mark Coglianese, is off to a strong start as well this fall. The offense has been able to run the football behind a big and physical line, led by junior Jake Renfro. The Celtics have two quality running backs in senior Brenden Martus and freshman Aaron Vaughn. Can the Providence offense run the ball against the Crusader 'D? 

EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 28 Providence Catholic 14

Viewers' Choice Game 

Oswego East at Plainfield South, 7:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Plainfield South (4-0, 4-0) is off to a terrific start this season. Head coach Bill Bicker and the Cougars will rely on a punishing ground game, led by senior RB/QB Cody Dieball. They boast a very fast/athletic defense which has allowed just 20 points so far this season. Oswego East (4-0, 4-0) has been rolling along. The Wolves, coached by Tyson LeBlanc, have talent this fall including senior WR/DB Justin Clark and a defense that's allowed just six points so far this season. But the schedule ramps up big time starting on Friday with Plainfield South. Can the Cougars run the football, move the chains and match speed against speed with Oswego East? Can the Wolves take away the Plainfield South option game and break some big plays against the Cougars defense?  

EDGY's Pick: Oswego East 14 Plainfield South 13