UCLA continued its pipeline to the Compton Magic grassroots program on Thursday as talented five-star forward T.J. Leaf committed to the Bruins during a televised announcement.
The 6-foot-10 Leaf becomes the third member of UCLA’s Class of 2016 to come from the Magic and two more Class of 2017 UCLA commitments are also from the storied AAU program.
A former Arizona commit, Leaf is a very skilled forward who can hit jumpers from all over and also put the ball on the floor a little bit. Regarded as the No. 15 overall prospect in the national class, Leaf picked UCLA over his other finalists of Oregon and San Diego State.
During 12 games with the Magic this spring and summer, Leaf averaged 21 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Leaf joins five-star point guard Lonzo Ball, four-star big man Ike Anigbogu and three-star guard Kobe Paras in the Bruins’ Class of 2016.
Mixtape of five-star 2016 forward T.J. Leaf (VIDEO)
Since opening up his recruitment from Arizona last month, five-star forward T.J. Leaf has been one of the hottest recruiting names in the country. The skilled forward can hit shot all the way out the perimeter, but he’s also athletic enough to finish above the rim.
The 6-foot-10 forward from El Cajon, California is a potential All-American candidate this spring. Here’s a new mixtape of him from Courtside Films.
Five-star forward T.J. Leaf focusing on eight schools
The eight schools (in no particular order according to the announcement) under consideration are Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Texas, California, San Diego State, Gonzaga and Indiana.
Leaf had an eventful summer on the court, beginning with some good play for the Magic on the adidas Uprising circuit. Leaf tried out for the United States U19 team but did not make the cut for a squad that would go on to win gold at the FIBA U19 World Championships under Arizona head coach Sean Miller’s tutelage. The team is selected by a committee led by Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
Leaf went on to represent Israel at the FIBA U18 European Championships, where he emerged as one of the top players in the tournament.
Leaf’s list includes some of the nation’s top programs, with many in positions of need when it comes to their front court rotation in 2016. Kentucky seemingly reloads every season, and each of the other teams on the list has at least one contributing senior who will be out of eligibility when the 2015-16 season concludes.
Five-star 2016 forward T.J. Leaf de-commits from Arizona
One of the top players in the Class of 2016 has decided to reopen his recruitment on the heels of a standout performance at the FIBA U18 European Championships.
6-foot-10 forward T.J. Leaf, who represented Israel at the event and hails from San Diego, has de-committed from Arizona. At the time of Leaf’s commitment in late November he picked the Wildcats over Florida, UCLA, Duke and Michigan. Given his progression in both the high school and international game, it’s safe to say that Leaf will be a highly sought-after recruit now that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.
“Thank you to Arizona for the opportunity to play for an outstanding program but I’ve decided to reopen my recruitment,” Leaf said in a statement he posted on Twitter Thursday night. “The school and staff of Arizona have been great to me and I have nothing but respect for Coach Miller and the entire staff and wish them nothing but the best. But at this point in my life I know it’s best to explore my options and pursue other basketball opportunities.”
Leaf was Arizona’s lone commit in the class, and with three seniors in the front court this decision has major implications for Sean Miller and his staff as they look to put together their next class of freshmen. The Wildcats will lose Kaleb Tarczewski, Mark Tollefsen and Ryan Anderson at the end of the 2015-16 season, leaving Dusan Ristic, Rekwon Smith and Chance Commanche as front court players with eligibility remaining beyond the upcoming season.
It should be noted that Arizona is in the running for multiple high-level front court prospects, including De’Ron Davis, Schnider Herard, M.J. Cage and Mitch Lightfoot. Those recruitments become more important in light of Thursday’s news.
Five-star 2016 power forward verbally commits to Arizona
On the final day of the early signing period for Class of 2015 recruits, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2016 announced his decision to attend one of college basketball’s best programs.
T.J. Leaf, a five-star power forward from El Cajon, California, announced Wednesday afternoon that he will be attending Arizona. Among the other programs thoughts to be in contention for Leaf were Florida, Duke, Indiana and UCLA.
I've decided that I'm committing to the University Of Arizona! #beardown so excited to have this opportunity! #ArizonaWildcats
“T.J. Leaf is very skilled with the ball in his hands and as a shooter for a forward his size,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “He needs to get a little tougher on the interior and rebounding the basketball, but Sean Miller has it rolling on the recruiting trail right now.”
To Phillips’ point regarding Arizona’s recruiting success, their pipeline at the forward spot is impressive. Currently the Wildcats have junior Brandon Ashley and freshman Craig Victor seeing minutes, with Ashley being a starter who rates among the best forwards in the country. Also to be considered is the presence of Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson, who’s sitting out this season and will have one year of eligibility to use in 2015-16.
Victor would be a junior in 2016, which is when Leaf would begin his freshman season. And given what Miller and his staff have accomplished from a recruiting standpoint since their arrival in the Sonoran desert, Arizona’s full 2016 class is a solid bet to rank among the nation’s best when it’s all said and done. Leaf’s commitment is a good start in that regard.
LONG BEACH, California — The 2014 version of adidas Nations is behind us now, but with CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips both in attendance, they decided to break down some of the top high school players in the event by going over a list of superlatives for the week. Be sure to check out the college counselor superlatives and be on the look out for brief recaps of every college counselor in attendance later this week on College Basketball Talk.
Dennis Smith – The Class of 2016 point guard is already a top-5 player in the class, according to Rivals, but the North Carolina native had a fantastic week in helping his Team Lillard win the camp’s title. The 6-foot-2 Smith shot 71 percent from the field over the five games at adidas Nations and if you take three-pointers out of the equation — in which he was a respectable 36 percent on 4-for-11 shooting — Smith shot a ridiculous 85 percent on two-point field goals (23-for-27). As if that wasn’t enough, Smith also led the camp in assists (4.8 per game), steals (three per game) and also shot 92 percent from the free-throw line. When you consider most of the guys in attendance were older, those numbers are incredibly impressive. (SP)
Dennis Smith – Thon Maker won MVP honors and fellow guards De’Aaron Fox and Eron Gordon also performed well for Team Lillard, but the choice here is Smith even with attempts to avoid duplicating my colleague’s answer. Smith was that good, working incredibly hard to get to the basket while also making sure his teammates were taken care of (as noted above he led the camp in assists). If Smith can get that perimeter shot in order, defenders whose best course of action is to sag off of him will be in even more trouble than they already are. (RJ)
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Kobi Simmons – Another Class of 2016 guard and five-star prospect, Simmons had a great week, as a point guard, at adidas Unrivaled in Chicago in early July only to see his play regress this week at adidas Nations. The 6-foot-5 Simmons hunted his own offense aggressively but shot low percentages from the field (36 percent, 25-for-68) and the three-point line (16 percent, 4-for-24) and also had nearly double the turnovers (17) than he did assists (nine). Simmons is still an immense talent, and will be one of the better guard prospects in the 2016 class, but there is clear separation from Dennis Smith and Simmons after this week and there are legitimate questions if Simmons is actually a point guard after this summer. (SP)
T.J. Leaf – Leaf wasn’t around long, playing in just one game before leaving for an unspecified reason. It would have been nice to see the highly regarded 2016 prospect play throughout the event, especially in the title game against the loaded squad that included the likes of Dennis Smith, Thon Maker and Eron Gordon. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, meaning that those in attendance didn’t get another chance to evaluate him against some of the best players in the country. (RJ)
Billy Preston – There were murmurs from the West Coast all spring and summer that the Class of 2017 forward was playing at a high level and Preston proved it with his play at adidas Nations. The 6-foot-8 Preston shot 56 percent from the three-point line (9-for-16) this week and also rebounded the ball pretty well, especially considering he was facing a lot of players two years older than him. There’s still a long time to go for Preston to enter college, but high-majors should be interested because he’s a stretch forward that can also rebound. (SP)
Wesley Alves da Silva – Jalen Poyser could be another option for this spot, but I’ll go with the 6-foot-5 Brazilian (he plays for Palmeiras in Brazil) in this spot given my limited knowledge about him. Alves da Silva averaged 18.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during adidas Nations play, shooting 54.5% from the field. He attempted just three three-pointers the entire weekend, as he spent most of his time looking to create opportunities inside the arc. This performance capped a summer that included the FIBA Americas U18 Championships, where he accounted for 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. Not sure if Alves da Silva’s name comes up in college basketball recruiting circles as time rolls on, but his name may be one to keep in mind down the road. (RJ)
Dennis Smith – While adidas Nations featured a number of high-level prospects like Class of 2015 top-ten players Jaylen Brown and Chase Jeter and Class of 2016 top-ten player Thon Maker, Smith is the type of athletic point guard with skill that doesn’t pop up very often. While Smith attempted to make some flashy plays that led to turnovers in the spring, he was incredibly efficient in Long Beach this week and made everyone around him better. It’s probably a toss-up between Maker and Smith long term, but I’ll go with Smith at this point because Maker’s ability to add strength and his average hands are question marks going forward. (SP)
Thon Maker – Since my colleague went with Smith I’ll go with Maker, who performed well most of the weekend for the 2016 group that won the title in impressive fashion. At 7-foot-1 he moves fluidly, and despite the lithe frame more than held his own on the glass with an average of 8.0 rebounds per game. Maker didn’t miss a shot in the semifinals, scoring 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting from both the field and the foul line. The perimeter shot is still a work in progress, but given his size it’s more important that Maker continue to hone his skills inside of the arc. If he can do that and gain some physical strength, Maker will cement his status as the best choice in this category. (RJ)