Transferring from the San Jose State Spartan program to the Xavier Musketeers in the Big East must be like hitting the lottery for Ryan Welage. He’s closer to home, of course, so his family can see up close his progress to a formidable college wing player from a once stretch forward in high school (his 6’6” brother, Andrew, plays at the same high school). The Xavier program was also a #1 NCAA tourney seed and is leaps and bounds ahead of the Spartan program that has had only two long-ago winning seasons in the last 30 years.
Some might say it was a hard road and maybe even an unnecessary road to take his final year of playing eligibility to Xavier
Wiithout Welage’s three productive seasons at San Jose State, the 6’9” Welage likely wouldn’t be on the radar of such a program like Xavier. With the Spartans, Welage ranks sixth all-time in their 100+ year history with 1,258 career points and his 161 three-pointers is a Spartan program record. He was the leading Spartan scorer in his final year, where he averaged over 18 points per game and shot almost 40% from the arc. Welage was an All-Mountain West Conference honorable mention in a league that touted nationally-recognized programs like Nevada, San Diego and Boise State. As a now known and proven commodity in the D1 ranks, there’s bound to be rejuvenation and relief to be playing back at home after three years of solid personal and player growth.
Coming out of Greensburg High School in 2015 as an Indiana all-state forward, Welage had offers from nearby mid-sized universities where in hindsight, he would have experienced much more winning at any of them and would have been a key contributor just as well. It might be safe to speculate that he’d also complete all his years of eligibility if he chose any one of the other offers.
Knowingly or not, Welage chose the more challenging path to San Jose that only seemed to strengthen his resolve and abilities. The Spartan program only showed signs of life during his sophomore year with the team winning 14 games and losing 16 in the 2016-2017 season before the bottom started to fall out. The coach who originally recruited him resigned right before Welage’s junior season amid harassment and discrimination allegations. Another star player and a few others in his recruiting class also left the program and the unproven, first-year coach, Jean Prioleau, was left overwhelmed and over-matched. The Spartans finished with a dismal 4-26 record for the 2017-2018 season.
Along with Welage’s departure, two other star players, Jaycee Hillsman and Keith Fisher, left alongside with him this past March, leaving the Spartan program in another major reset mode. Through it all, Welage stuck it out and showed grit, stamina and commitment in the chaos of losing and that has put him in the position with Xavier and another new coach with Travis Steele, who has quite a lot more to work with as the newly minted Musketeers head coach.
There is also a good possibility Welage could play next season if the NCAA passes the proposal to allow transfers to play without sitting out a year. The NCAA is supposed to meet before the end of April to hopefully finalize the new rule where if certain academic requirements are met, transfer players could be eligible immediately. Welage is a Kinesiology major with a 3+ GPA with a 4.0 GPA during his last fall semester, which would seem to put him on the plus side of the new rule if it passes.
Regardless, Welage has mentioned his openness to sit out a season where he’d build strength and continue to improve his already very efficient game. With San Jose State, Welage stayed healthy and didn’t miss a game in his entire three seasons. His KIN major and his ultra-healthy lifestyle certainly contributed to this ironman run and soon, Xavier and the Welage family will see Ryan’s full and complete potential on the national stage.