A cursory glance at the history of basketball in Columbus yields a frequent surname: Welmer.
Bob Welmer was a standout at Columbus High School in the 1950s and went on to play at Tulane and University of Cincinnati. His sons Steve and David starred at Columbus and, after the split, Columbus North before taking their games to Evansville and Ball State, respectively.
Bob and Steve Welmer are members of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. David, who helped the Bull Dogs to the state’s Final Four in 1975, was on the Hall’s Silver Anniversary Team in 2000.
Now, another Welmer is making waves on the court. David’s son, Elliott, has been lighting it up for North this season.
“I’m just getting in there and playing hard,” Elliott said. “I just want to keep playing the way I’ve been playing, just keep playing hard.”
Welmer, who played exclusively at the junior varsity level last year, grew from 6-foot-4 to 6-8 and provided a spark off the bench the first half of this season. He moved into a starting role three games ago and has scored 18, 13 and 15 points in those contests.
“(Becoming a starter) was my goal at the beginning of the season, and it’s finally coming through for me,” the junior said.
North coach Jason Speer said, “He worked extremely hard in the spring, and he was patient with his game and patient with his skills and was doing all the right things in the offseason. Now, he’s reaping the rewards of that and really helping our team win basketball games.”
The Bull Dogs are off to a 12-1 start, and Welmer has been a key factor, averaging 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds. At 6-8, he’s a matchup nightmare for opponents with his 61.1 percent (22 of 36) shooting from 3-point range.
“He’s a great pick-and-pop guy off of a ball screen,” Speer said. “He’s one guy that the kids look for in transition because he’s efficient.
“His rebounding, that will come,” he said. “If there’s one area where he can dominate would be on the glass, but I think we’re kind of nitpicking with the rebound-type stuff. We’re just very happy with his development.”
Speer was especially pleased with Welmer’s defense on Mooresville star Jacob Johnson in Friday night’s win over the Pioneers.
“Being able to guard a kid like that in open space that is potentially a Division I kid, I thought that he made him work for everything that he had,” Speer said. “That was the complete focus of their offensive game, and Elliott took that away.”
“He’s playing really well, and he’s been playing great defense,” senior teammate Sawyer Glick said.
Welmer, who plays travel basketball for Indiana Grassroots out of Indianapolis, received a little attention from Division I college scouts over the summer. Eastern Kentucky, UNC-Greensboro and Evansville showed the most interest.
Elliott inherited his height from his father, grandfather and uncles. Bob is 6-5, David is 6-8 and Steve, a retired college basketball official, is 6-9.
“(Elliott and David are) neck and neck right now, and Elliott is dying to get a couple inches on his dad,” said Elliott’s mother, Luann, who is 5-8.
Besides the big growth spurt from last year, Elliott has put on about 20 pounds.
“I’m more physical, I think,” he said. “I’ve been in the weight room a little bit, trying to get more physical and be able to guard the 5-man (center).”
“I think from a physical maturity standpoint, he’s gotten stronger,” Speer said. “His shooting has gotten better. He finishes well in transition now. He’s an athletic kid. For the most part, I think he’s a good player who wants to be great. We’re just lucky to have him right now, and he’s just playing really well.”