UCLA got good news on national signing day, as five-star power forward prospect T.J. Leaf has committed to play his college career for coach Steve Alford and the Bruins.
“I have a great relationship with Coach Alford and all the other coaches there,” Leaf said on ESPN during his announcement. “Everytime I go there, it just felt like home.”
He had also been considering Oregon and San Diego State.
Leaf was formerly committed to Arizona to play for coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats, but the 6-10 native of El Cajon, California decided to re-open his recruitiment in August after playing for the Israeli U18 and U19 national teams this summer. He was named the MVP of the U18 European Championships second division, averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists per game in helping to earn Israel promotion to the first division.
Leaf, the No. 17 player in the 247 Composite is a smart, fluidly athletic stretch-four who can knock down shots from the outside (albeit with funky jump shot mechanics that a coach might want to clean up), get up and down the floor in transition, and also knock down midrange shots with a nice array of runners/floaters after attacking closeouts. He has a high feel for the game, and also can really pass the ball. To be an immediate impact player though, he’ll need to improve upon his defense as he can get a little lackadaisical there from time to time.
There’s a small bit of minutiae to clean up here, as UCLA is already at 13 scholarships for next season before taking on Leaf. It’s likely that current junior Bryce Alford will go off scholarship next season and play as a walk-on for the Bruins under his father. Steve Alford told Jack Wang of InsideSoCal back in June that taking Bryce off scholarship is “something we that we can do,” so expect that to be how this all works out.
Leaf’s commitment gives the Bruins an excellent recruiting class is currently ranked in the top-five nationally for 2016 according to 247Sports. The Bruins also currently have the No. 1 recruiting class in the 2017 cycle according that site’s composite ranking metric, which means that there could be strong times ahead for the UCLA program under Steve Alford.