Throughout last Saturday afternoon during the adidas Gauntlet Series in Indianapolis, T.J. Leaf made sure to wander through Best Choice Fieldhouse more than once between his games with Compton Magic.
He happened to be wearing a blue Arizona hoodie while he did that.
That wasn’t an accident.
“There’s a couple guys I would really like to play with,” Leaf told Point Guard U. “And I’m going to do my best, as well as the coaches, to get them (to Arizona). No names, though.”
Just over five months ago, the highly touted class of 2016 forward chose to shut down his recruitment, committing to Arizona on Nov. 19 over the likes of Duke and Indiana. And since then, the 6-foot-9, five-star prospect has had no regrets.
From the time Arizona started recruiting him, Leaf said he knew he would end up playing for the Wildcats.
So, he thought, why wait to make a commitment?
“I just had a great feeling first time I went there,” Leaf said. “I had a really good feel from all the coach staff. I just fell in love with the place right when I went there.
“A lot of schools, you have a relationship with the head coach and maybe one assistant. There, I have a relationship with every single coach. Which means a lot to me, because if something were to happen and some coach leaves and another comes in for an assistant spot, I’ll still have a relationship with all of them. That was big for me.”
But while his own recruiting process is over — he admitted it is strange that “nobody’s talking to me” anymore — Leaf has embraced his new role as a future Wildcat. Now, he’s recruiting others to Arizona.
He said he is trying to convince players from across the adidas Gauntlet circuit to attend Arizona with him. And his AAU teammates are right in the midst of that.
Arizona’s coaching staff made it a priority last weekend to watch Leaf’s Compton Magic squad, which also features offer recipient Jaylen Hands. And in addition to the staff’s recruitment of Hands, he said Leaf has equally been in his ear about playing together at the next level.
“He’s been telling me it’s the best school for me,” Hands said. “It’s the best school in the nation.”
“I love playing with T.J. It’s really easy playing with him. If you give him the ball, it’s a bucket, a foul. Something good is happening when you give him the ball.”
But Leaf’s own future, past his time at Arizona, has been on his mind recently as well.
Earlier this month, Leaf traveled to Israel — the nation in which he was born — to visit friends and family. He also was there to “feel out some options.”
As an Israeli citizen, Leaf is eligible to play for the Israeli national basketball team, if he chooses. He has previously participated in USA Basketball youth camps as a member of the 2013 men’s developmental national team and as a finalist for a spot on the 2014 USA U17 World Championships team.
But he has yet to decide on whether he wants to represent the United States or Israel on the senior level. He has that option if he chooses.
“Of course I would love to play for the USA team,” Leaf said. “But if nothing works out here, that would be a great experience over there.”
That said, Leaf now has his priorities elsewhere.
He said he’s focused on improving with his Compton Magic teammates — as a team, which went 3-5 over the first two weekends of the adidas Gauntlet series, and individually, by dribbling tighter and improving his jump shot and strength.
Yet he also has his sights set on Tucson. As he proudly donned his Arizona gear on Saturday, he couldn’t help but think ahead.
He already can’t wait for what the future has in store for him.
“I knew where I was going to go, regardless of how long I waited,” Leaf said. “And I mean I love Arizona more than ever. It’s really exciting being able to have the opportunity to play there in a couple of years.”