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Carter Welling’s World

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UCI freshman forward Carter Welling started the season as a redshirt. After an injury to starting junior center Bent Leuchten, head coach Russell Turner called upon him to forego his redshirt for the starting position, and he more than stepped up to the challenge. This season, Carter has played in 28 of the team’s 32 games, averaging 7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg and just over one block per game.

“When the opportunity came to come off my redshirt, I jumped at it,” Carter Welling said in an interview with the New University. “Going from being a redshirt to being in the starting lineup was a big change for me and it just shows me the belief that [Coach Turner] has in me and each and every one of my teammates.”

Carter committed to UC Irvine during his 2020-21 senior year at Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, joining his older brother Hayden Welling. After graduation, Carter went on a two-year Latter-day Saints mission trip before arriving on UCI’s campus in the fall of 2023. In high school, Carter was a team captain his senior year averaging 16.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.8 apg and one steal per game. He helped lead Corner Canyon to the state tournament where he was selected to the Utah State All-Tournament Team and First Team All-State.

“A big part of my desire to come to UC Irvine was their dedication towards me, and it made me feel like they’re invested in me and my family because my brother is here as well, and I think that [he] also played a big part in my desire to come here,” Carter Welling said. “It’s a winning program and you can’t beat the location, it’s good to be here.”

Upon arriving at UC Irvine, Carter helped lead the Anteaters to an 8-0 record en route to the championship in the 42nd annual William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan. Carter had his best performance of the tournament in the third game against Japan posting 11 points and eight rebounds in a 108-47 victory. 

“Taiwan was a great experience because it was my first time playing with the guys really, and all the practices leading up, it allowed me to showcase what I had,” Carter Welling said. “And I think learning how to play in the system was awesome and gave me a great opportunity for me to know what UC Irvine basketball is all about.”

Carter said his favorite moment from this season was his dunk against Long Beach State in the team’s annual homecoming game, in an 82-61 victory over their Black and Blue rivals.

“I mean, in a sold-out crowd, to get up and get it done was pretty cool, and to hear the whole place explode, the Antourage really showed up,” Carter Welling said. 

Carter discussed how fun it’s been to play alongside his brother, who he didn’t really get to share the court with a lot in high school.

“Me and my brother kind of played different positions growing up because I was a little bit [younger], and so we always played against each other because I was two years behind him,” Carter Welling said. “I think going against him, I started to model my game after him a little bit. I look up to him in a lot of ways and I think being here with him is awesome because instead of battling for a spot or anything like that, we’re playing together.”

Carter said his favorite player this year to play alongside, besides his brother, has definitely been fifth-year guard Pierre Crockrell II.

“I think someone who I really enjoy playing with is Pierre and [I like] his talent and his skill to pass the ball,” Carter Welling said. “Sometimes you’ll be running down the floor and he’s looking one way and the next thing you know, the ball hits you in the chest, and so he’s a great teammate and [the team] love[s] him.”

Carter also had some high praise for his head coach, Coach Turner, who recruited him to play at UCI and has managed to produce the best out of him.

“I think we have a pretty good relationship,” Carter Welling said. “I think he has very high expectations for us. And once we meet that expectation, it just gets higher. And so I think that he’s really bought into us and our development and I think that’s just really what you look for in a program. It’s somebody who cares about each and every one of us and wants us to be better.”

The Anteaters currently boast a 15-3 conference record, securing the number one seed in the upcoming 2024 Hercules Tires Big West Men’s Basketball Championship. The Anteaters look to win the conference tournament this year for the third time in school history and advance to the NCAA tournament, also known as March Madness, for the third time under head coach Russell Turner. 

“Playing for the Big West Championship is huge,” Carter Welling said. “And I think even looking one step past that is winning the Big West tournament, which will ultimately lead us to March Madness. And I think March Madness has kind of been the expectation for this group.”

To reach March Madness, UCI must win the semifinal matchup of the Big West Tournament slated for Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m. They also need to follow up that victory by securing the Big West Championship in the title game on Saturday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Dollar Loan Center Arena in Henderson, Nevada. While the task ahead is daunting, Carter and his teammates are confident that they have what it takes to reach the Big Dance this year.

James Huston is a Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at hustonj@uci.edu

Edited by Harleen Thandi, Jaheem Conley, and Laiyla Santillan