December 7, 2023 

‘We knew we were getting a baller’: Chloe Welch is making the most of her sixth year of college basketball

How Welch’s leadership has impacted Saint Joseph’s this season

When she’s not attending classes for her master’s degree in organization development and leadership, Saint Joseph’s guard Chloe Welch can almost always be found in the gym.

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“I just walked into the gym now — she’s shooting,” head coach Cindy Griffin told The Next. “I think she really enjoys being in the gym. She loves basketball and again, that elevates her teammates because [it gives] her teammates energy. But she’s been terrific. Her work ethic is really, really off the charts.”

Welch came to Saint Joseph’s after five seasons at Davidson. She averaged 8.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 115 games as a Wildcat. But just seven games into last season, Welch suffered a season-ending foot injury.

She found out in February 2023 that she’d be able to play a sixth season of college basketball. Welch was excited about the news and told The Next, “[It’s] a great opportunity to play another year to completion … And I wanted to take the opportunity and go somewhere, and luckily I landed here because it’s a great place.”

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Saint Joseph’s associate head coach/director of recruiting Melissa Dunne spotted Welch in the transfer portal. The Hawks’ previous sixth-year point guard, Katie Jekot, had used her final year of eligibility last season, and Griffin described Welch as a “fierce competitor.”

Griffin was familiar with Welch from having coached against her three times. In those three games, Welch shot 50% from behind the arc and averaged 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. 

“We knew that Chloe was a great player that understood the Atlantic 10. And [we] love the way that they play [at Davidson] and it’s very intense and athletic and skilled,” Griffin said. “And so [she] definitely fit what we do here at St. Joe’s. And then coming here as a new person on our team, she fit right in. I mean, her work ethic was second to none. There was no question that she was going to come in here and make an impact right away, whether it be the fitness level that she was in or the competitiveness and the skill set that she brought.” 

Welch chose Saint Joseph’s because of the coaching staff and the conversations she had with them. “Their character and their love for the game of basketball aligned with what I wanted,” she said. “So it was a fairly easy choice for me.”

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Welch’s teammates and friends off the court have made her transition to Saint Joseph’s easy. Though moving from the small, quiet town of Davidson, North Carolina, to the city of Philadelphia was difficult at times, the people have kept her grounded.

“She’s very quick to adapt and adjust even though sometimes it can be stressful for her. … Her head’s spinning all over the place because she has like no idea how we want things done,” junior guard Mackenzie Smith told The Next. “But she’s willing to do that — like, figure it out for us. So I think she’s really good at adapting and adjusting.”

Griffin believes Welch continues to get more comfortable with what the team is trying to do on both ends of the court. She noted that Welch asks great questions and continues to be a student of the game. “She wants to be a coach, so she’s been watching a lot of film,” Griffin said. “She knows how to break down film … I think she’ll be a great coach one day.”

Welch’s desire to go into coaching is one reason she chose her master’s degree. She described the program as one that teaches you how to be a better leader and manage groups of people. Smith told The Next she could “100%” see Welch coaching in the future, noting “she’s very good at directing people on the court. And I think she would have a phenomenal coaching career.” 

Griffin believes that Welch fits the culture at Saint Joseph’s and elevates the team. “You have a player coming in with a high intensity, high competitive nature and she’s trying to prove herself, and the other players are really excited about it because it matches what we do here with the culture, the work ethic, the intensity, the talent that we have,” she said.

Eight games into this season, Welch is averaging 11.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.9 blocks per game. “I think that I’m a fairly explosive player,” she said. “… I like to rebound. I like to dribble past defenders and get to the basket. I like to block shots.”

While Welch remained humble, Smith sang her praises. “She’s very tenacious,” Smith said. “I love watching her play. … She does everything for us. She’s gritty. She plays defense. She’s a smaller guard, but … she had two blocks [against Drexel]. She’s capable of doing a lot of things for us and it’s just phenomenal.”

Saint Joseph's Chloe Welch (22) puts her left hand in the air and her right arm out to the side while defending Yale's Jenna Clark.
Saint Joseph’s Chloe Welch (22) defends Yale’s Jenna Clark at Payne Whitney Gymnasium in New Haven, Conn., on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Welch started playing basketball in second grade, playing on YMCA teams through elementary school and starting club basketball in middle school. Over the years, she participated in a variety of sports including softball, volleyball and soccer, and she ran track and cross country in high school. Basketball became her primary sport because she had the most fun playing it. She is entertained by the complexity, enjoys that every game is different and believes the sport is action-packed.

Though she doesn’t consider herself a natural, Welch spent a lot of time playing basketball because her dad’s side of the family was involved in the game. Her grandfather coached, her dad played the sport and Welch often accompanied him to the gym, and her aunt — who was her role model — played college basketball.

“I just watched them play basketball and listened to them and learned a lot from them and then just got out. I was constantly in the yard shooting hoops with them or going to the gym for my grandpa’s practices and shooting on the side or playing with the older girls,” Welch said. “I was just constantly immersed in basketball, which I think led to a lot of my success later on.”

Welch’s father was her biggest influence growing up. “He was the one who taught me everything I know, from the minute I picked up a basketball to the minute I started taking it more seriously,” she said. “We were always in the gym together on the weekends, after high school practices or just in the yard, on the weekends or whatever it was … He coaches high school basketball and I go to his practice gym in North Carolina, and he still coaches me and trains me and teaches me. I think that he’s an unbelievable coach. And I’ve always loved learning from him.”

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There’s no one moment that stands out from playing basketball because Welch enjoys practice and the little moments. “The big moments are always amazing, but for me, it’s the small accumulation of experiences that really make it what it is,” she said.

Those experiences include her favorite part of playing the sport: celebrating with her teammates. “Whether that is your teammates score and you’re hyped for them, or you score and your teammates are hyped for you, or you’re on the bench and somebody makes a great play,” Welch said, “that’s just the best feeling. Your best friends succeeding and you succeeding and your best friends supporting you, it’s all amazing.”

Saint Joseph's Mackenzie Smith (21) chest bumps teammate Chloe Welch. The Saint Joseph's bench celebrates behind them.
Saint Joseph’s Mackenzie Smith (21) chest bumps teammate Chloe Welch in a game against Yale at Payne Whitney Gymnasium in New Haven, Conn., on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra | The Next)

Basketball has taught and given Welch quite a bit, including many of her most meaningful friendships and relationships. “It taught me how to communicate with people, handle conflict, talk to people in an uncomfortable situation,” she said. “It taught me how to persevere and work hard, and it’s taught me time management skills, balancing academics and sports. It’s taught me how to value sleep, value nutrition and things like that.”

Over the years, she has had to work on developing her shot, and she continues to work on it along with her dribbling and finishing skills. One thing that has come naturally is being an “energy player.”

Smith said that Welch brings energy and experience to the team. “Honestly, having her commit to us, we knew we were getting a baller,” she said. “And I couldn’t even tell you how excited we were …

“She’s been so special for us. She contributes on all ends of the floor, so we got a good one.”

Welch has even had the opportunity to share her experience and perspective with her teammates. Though Griffin noted that Welch is quiet, she leads by example and is able to mentor her younger teammates. “That leadership, that mentorship is something that we as coaches count on every day,” Griffin said.

“I’m able to focus in on what’s important and help people remember what’s important and help people remember what’s just a distraction and what’s less important,” Welch said.

Welch also brings a calm presence on the court and leadership on and off the court, even as she continues learning the team’s systems. Smith noted that Welch competes every day and brings a different level than anyone else on the team. When this happens in practice, it forces her teammates to compete as well.

“The first day she stepped on campus, I think we had pick-up, and you could see the difference between our group instantly just [with] how competitive it was,” Smith said.

Smith enjoys playing with Welch because Welch sparks the grittiness in her. “Just to see how hype she gets and how hyped we get for her when she does those types of things,” Smith said, “it makes me want to do it more.” 

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Welch’s goals for the season are to win an A-10 championship and win a game in the NCAA Tournament, and she also wants to give everything she has in every game she plays.

“I want to be as consistent as possible,” Welch said. “I want to — I mean, that’s really it. I want to be very consistent and fulfill my role to the best of my ability, every game, every practice.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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