Wilson Rams look to Jamal Welch, Tyra Foster to provide hoops X-factor

Contributing WriterMarch 6, 2014 

WILSON BASK X FACTOR

Tyra Foster, left, and Jamal Welch have developed into key contributors for the Wilson High School girls and boys basketball teams, respectively.

PETER HALEY — Staff photographer Buy Photo

For the first time in school history, the boys and girls basketball teams at Wilson High School qualified for the state tournament in the same season.

Both Wilson teams are loaded with star power. The boys have forward Alphonso Anderson and guards David Jenkins and Ivy Smith Jr. The girls have forwards Violet Morrow and Kiki Knox in the frontcourt, and the 3A Narrows League’s breakout player of the year in point guard Josie Matz, a ninth-grader.

But to win games and keep advancing at state, an X-factor usually has to emerge.

And Wilson has two of them. Both just completed their first full seasons with the Rams.

Jamal Welch, a small forward who played at Curtis High School as a sophomore, came to the Wilson boys in 2012. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the second day of practice and sat out last season.

Center Tyra Foster parlayed a stint on junior varsity into playing time with the Rams’ varsity girls during their run to a third-place finish last season at the 3A tournament.

Welch has been one of the boys’ most consistent performers this season.

He leads the Rams in 3-point percentage (35 percent) and averages 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Welch also broke Wilson’s dunk record with 18.

“He’s a dual threat,” Wilson boys coach Dave Alwert said. “He’s very good on the attack. You put the ball in his hand, and he’s aggressive and good at the rim, but he also knocks down big shots when we need him.”

Welch said it isn’t easy not attracting the same attention as some of his teammates.

Still, Welch, an aspiring radiologist, is hoping his stealth skills will catch the interest of a college team. He also plays Amateur Athletic Union ball with Team Access.

“They’ll go after Alphonso and the other big men, so they bypass me,” he said. “I’m kind of a silent killer on the court.”

Alwert agreed.

“He plays a ton of minutes, but you don’t really see much, and then you look at his stats,” he said. “He gets on the court and gets the job done.”

On the girls side, Foster has also been a quiet contributor for the Rams, who advanced to the Tacoma Dome for the third time in four seasons.

Despite playing AAU ball when she was younger, she did not plan to play in high school and had to adjust to the intensity.

She caught on quickly, though: Foster was named the league’s defensive player of the year this season.

“I wish I had another year or two with her,” Wilson girls coach Michelle Birge said. “She’s doing a lot of things that don’t always show up on that stat line, but without her, we wouldn’t be as competitive.”

Foster, who averages 7.2 points and 4.0 assists, is known for her prowess in the lane.

“That’s my paint,” Foster said. “Nobody is allowed in there.”

She said she models her game after former News Tribune All-Area post player Tia Briggs, now a top reserve at Western Washington University.

“To have (Briggs) pass down the name of ‘Beast’ to me — and be able to back it up — is remarkable,” Foster said.

Wilson graduated seven seniors off last year’s team, and Birge is confident that Foster will be a huge key this week.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be back, but this group was pretty motivated ...” Birge said. “Tyra has been a big part of that. She got a taste of it last year.”

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