As TJ Leaf competed at the Adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis, the feeling was a little different than from a year ago.
He was not there to impress any coaching staffs or field questions about his recruitment. That all ended last November when he became Arizona’s first commitment of the 2016 class.
“Sometimes, it’s like ‘oh dang, no one is talking to me,” Leaf said. “But that’s why I wanted to get it over with. I knew where was going to go regardless how long I waited.”
A half year following Leaf’s commitment, the 6’9 power forward is glad he made the decision when he did. By ending the recruiting process, which Leaf admitted got “really strenuous at times, he can now focus more of his attention to basketball and improving his game before he gets to Arizona.
Leaf is coming off a stellar junior high school season in which he led Foothills Christian (El Cajon, CA) to a 24-8 record with 27.4 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.
Next season, Leaf expects Foothills Christian to be even better after adding point guard Jaylen Hands, a class of 2017 point guard that Arizona is after.
“He’s a great player, Leaf said. “With Jaylen coming in we’re going to be a really tough team so I’m excited about it.
The duo will have plenty of experience together by this fall, as they are both apart of a loaded Compton Magic team.
Playing summer ball together also gives Leaf plenty of time to nudge his teammate Arizona’s direction.
“I’m not going to mention any names [but] there’s a couple guys I’d really like to play with [at Arizona], Leaf said. “I’m going to do my best as well as the coaches to get them there.”
Leaf will likely sell them on the same pitches that won him over; primarily, a family feeling within the program.
“I fell in love the first time I went there,” Leaf said. “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.”
Leaf carries his Arizona pride wherever he goes. At the tournament in Indianapolis, he was seen wearing a UofA sweatshirt.
“Right now, Leaf said, “I’m just thinking about Arizona and how excited I am to be there.”