Christian Welp, who finished his four-year basketball career at Washington as the school’s all-time leading scorer, has died. He was 51.
“This is an extremely sad loss,” coach Lorenzo Romar said in a statement released by the school. “Christian is one of the most outstanding student-athletes to have ever played at Washington. He was not only a great guy but he was a great role model and father and we will miss him dearly.”
Former Husky standout Eldridge Recasner first reported Sunday afternoon the news of Welp’s death on Twitter. Recasner wrote: “It is with the HEAVIEST of hearts that I have to announce that we have lost @UW_MBB LEGEND Chris Welp to a apparent heart attack.”
The 7-foot German native started four years at UW (1984-87) and led the Huskies to three NCAA tournament appearances. With Welp and Detlef Shrempf starring, Washington won the Pac-10 regular-season title in 1984 and ’85. Welp captured the Pac-10 Player of the Year award in 1986.
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He tallied 2,073 points to set UW’s scoring record. He also owns the school’s career blocks record with 186. Welp is fourth on UW’s all-time rebounding list with 995.
Welp was drafted No. 16 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1987. He played two seasons with the 76ers and split the 1989-90 season with Golden State and San Antonio. Welp finished his professional basketball career overseas and won nine championships with teams in Germany, Italy and Greece.
Welp was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Pac-10 Hall of Honor in 2007.
“In my mind, a lot of guys have been short-changed by (Washington),” said Dave Harshman, whose legendary father Marv recruited Welp to UW and coached him for two years. “He should have had his (No. 40) jersey retired a long time ago.”
Welp’s son Collin plays for the Seattle Prep boys basketball team.
“I was with (Chris Welp) Friday night,” Harshman said. “I said, ‘See you at the tournament.’ I mean, it’s devastating to me.”
Welp’s former Husky teammates expressed dismay over his passing.
“It’s shocking,” said former UW guard Alvin Vaughn, who played the 1983-84 season with Welp. “It’s such an unexpected loss.”
Welp will be remembered for scoring more points than anyone in Husky history, but one of his greatest gifts was catching the ball.
“He had the softest hands for a big man and could catch the ball better than anybody I had seen in a long time,” Vaughn said. “Most big men are usually clumsy and all that, but he was really smooth. He didn’t do anything really flamboyant. He just made things look so easy.”
During an interview last year to discuss the greatest scorers in UW history, Welp downplayed his accomplishment.
“It’s a testament to playing a lot of years of really solid basketball,” he said. “If you look around college basketball, 2,000 points isn’t really that much. But the game has changed so much over the years. The really good players don’t stick around for four years any more.”
Former Washington star C.J. Wilcox is second on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,880 points. When Welp set the mark in 1987, he broke Bob Houbregs’ 34-year-old record established in 1953.
Welp’s scoring record at Washington has stood for 28 years and will likely last much longer.