T.J.
Leaf
Position: PF
Height/Weight: 6'10" / 225 lbs
School/Club: UCLA
Status: Freshman
Birthday: April 30, 1997

About T.J. Leaf

There wasn’t much question the type of player T.J. Leaf would turn out to be, not after his father and mentor, Brad Leaf, had played for two decades against international competition and seen the value of European-style big men who are comfortable scoring on the perimeter. The elder Leaf’s tutelage wasn’t just of the informal variety, either. He coached his son in summer leagues and at Foothills Christian High School in San Diego. So T.J. Leaf learned how to play like a guard, even as he was growing into a 6-foot-10 power forward. The result is a versatile face-up four-man who can beat teams in a variety of ways.

Strengths

  • Effective scorer in the post
  • Good shooter from midrange and 3
  • Can score off the dribble
  • Competes
  • Intelligent
  • Good passer
  • Solid rebounder

Weaknesses

  • Needs to get bigger and stronger
  • Not overly long

NBA projection: Leaf is a definite first-round pick.

2016-17 Season
Anyone who thought UCLA was all about Lonzo Ball wasn’t paying attention. Leaf led the Bruins in scoring and joined Ball on the All-Pac-12 first team and All-Pac 12 freshman team. He was one of only three players in the league to finish among the top 10 in scoring and rebounding. Per kenpom.com, Leaf was No. 14 in the nation in effective field-goal percentage (65.2) and his offensive rating of 128.2 was No. 24.

Key statistics: 16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 tpg, 1.1 bpg, 29.9 mpg, .617 FG, .466 3PT, .679 FT

Cool statistic: Leaf scored 32 points against Washington State, the second-highest total for a freshman in UCLA history behind Don MacLean’s 41 in 1988.

Career Highlights: Picked up All-Pac-12 First-Team and All-Freshman Team recognition in his debut season at UCLA. Secured honorable mention AP All-America accolades. A top-5 finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. One of just three Pac-12 players to rank among the top 10 in the conference in scoring and rebounding. Finished second in the Pac-12 with a 61.7 field goal percentage.

Reminds me of: Chandler Parsons

What Insiders Say
UCLA coach Steve Alford

“He's just got really good skill set. He's almost got guard skill set in a big body. There is not a lot of stretch 4s in the country that average the points he averages, shoots the percentages he shoots and then to have such a positive assist/turnover ratio. He can really pass the basketball. He rebounds the ball well. He's a special talent.”

What Outsiders Say
Kentucky coach John Calipari

“What Leaf did, he basically dominated the game. We had no one, unless I was going to go big lineup, which we haven’t done a whole lot, which shows me maybe we have to be prepared for that. But he killed us.”

 

Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

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