5-star Calif. forward/IU target T.J. Leaf has Indiana ties
FISHERS, Ind. – Five-star forward T.J. Leaf lives in Southern California, but most of his family lives in Indiana.
The Indiana University basketball team is hoping those roots pull in a Leaf in the 2016 class.
The 6-foot-10 Leaf, an extremely skilled player for his height who can shoot, dribble and pass, said on Sunday at the adidas Gauntlet session that IU, UCLA, Arizona and Michigan are among the teams recruiting him hardest.
"I really like all those programs and how the coaches are talking about playing me," said Leaf, a member of the Compton Magic club who is ranked No. 14 in the 2016 class by Scout.com. "Indiana, that's a great program, really historic. They've been really good recently. I know they had a down year, but they're going to be right back on top this year and the next year. It's a great program. All the programs are great programs."
Leaf is coached by his father, Brad, at Foothills Christian High School in El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego, where his dad settled the family after a long professional basketball career in Israel
But Brad Leaf is originally from Indianapolis and played at the University of Evansville. T.J.'s mother is from Evansville, and her entire family is still there.
"That's obviously a bonus," T.J. Leaf said of the Indiana ties. "If I come here to play basketball, it would be kind of like I'm at home as well as really far away. So it's kind of a plus."
Brad Leaf said how his son fits in a college system will be the most important factor in his college decision, but the family's Midwest roots make for a "huge draw" to both IU and Michigan.
The elder Leaf grew up an IU fan following Quinn Buckner and Kent Benson and has kept tabs on the program for 40 years.
Leaf has made three visits to IU, including for two games last season, and he feels like a top priority for the Hoosiers. His father said it made an impression last month when IU coach Tom Crean, who had traveled to Arizona to visit 2014 IU signee Jeremiah April, made a stopover at Foothills Christian on a Friday night to watch T.J. work out instead of heading home early.
"I feel like I'm really far to the top if not No. 1 (of IU's priority list)," T.J. Leaf said. "They keep in constant contact with my dad. I feel like they're really, really interested."
Leaf likes IU's style of play.
"They like to run the ball sometimes when they have the right personnel," he said. "I feel like I could fit in really well with that, and I could play multiple positions. So I think it would be a great fit for us."
While he's in the region, Leaf plans to unofficially visit Michigan on Monday. His dad said an unofficial visit to Arizona will likely take place in August.
T.J. Leaf said he probably won't consider making a college commitment until early 2015.
Steve Jones can be reached at (502) 582-7176 and followed on Twitter at @SteveJones_CJ.