T. J. Leaf
Leaf (No. 22) with the Pacers in 2018
|No. 22 – Indiana Pacers|
|Born||April 30, 1997|
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Nationality||Israeli / American|
|Listed height||6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)|
|Listed weight||222 lb (101 kg)|
|High school||Foothills Christian|
(El Cajon, California)
|NBA draft||2017 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18th overall|
|Selected by the Indiana Pacers|
|2017||→Fort Wayne Mad Ants|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Ty Jacob Leaf (born April 30, 1997) is an Israeli-American professional basketball player for the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). After playing one season of college basketball for the UCLA Bruins, he was selected by the Pacers in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft with the 18th overall pick.
Leaf was named an All-American as a high school senior in 2016. As a UCLA freshman in 2016–17, he earned first-team all-conference honors in the Pac-12. He also played for Israel's Under-18 junior national team at the 2015 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship B Division.
Leaf was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Karen and Brad Leaf. His father was playing professional basketball in Israel at the time, and he enjoyed a 17-year career in the country. Leaf lived his first 2 1⁄2 years in Tel Aviv before growing up in Lakeside, California, in San Diego County. His father coached him in summer leagues prior to high school. Despite possessing the height of a power forward—he stood 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) in junior high—Leaf played on the perimeter to develop guard skills. His father wanted him to be versatile like the big men that he had competed against as a pro in Europe.
Leaf attended Foothills Christian High School in El Cajon, California, where he also played under his father. As a junior, Leaf averaged 27.4 points, 14.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.7 blocks per game, leading Foothills Christian to the San Diego Section Division II championship. Cal-Hi Sports named him their Division II State Player of the Year.
In his senior year, Leaf led the team to a No. 3 state ranking after averaging 28.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. He scored a season-high 44 points in a loss to Chino Hills, who were led by future teammate Lonzo Ball. Leaf earned McDonald's and Ballislife All-American honors, and USA Today named him second-team All-USA. He was a runner-up to Ball for California Mr. Basketball. Leaf finished his high school career second all-time in the San Diego Section in both points (3,022) and rebounds (1,476). He trailed only his brother, Troy, in points (3,318 for Foothills Christian from 2007 to 2010) and Angelo Chol in rebounds (1,732 with Hoover from 2008 to 2011).
Leaf originally committed in 2014 to play for Arizona under coach Sean Miller. He tried out for the United States under-19 national team, also coached by Miller, but was cut in training camp in June 2015. In August, Leaf decommitted from Arizona, leading to speculation that the cut by Miller was a motivating factor. He signed with UCLA three months later, choosing them over Oregon and San Diego State. A consensus five-star and overall top-20 recruit, he joined his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teammates from the Compton Magic, Ike Anigbogu and Kobe Paras, who also committed to UCLA. The Bruins recruiting class also included Ball, who along with Leaf were both expected to lead a UCLA turnaround in 2016–17 after the Bruins finished just 15–17 the year before.
On December 5, 2016, Leaf was named Pac-12 Player of the Week following his performance at Kentucky, where he registered 17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. He and Ball were named to the mid-season watch list for the John R. Wooden Award, given annually to the top college player in the nation; UCLA was one of just five schools with two candidates on the list. The two were also among 30 on the midseason watch list for the Naismith College Player of the Year. On February 1, 2017, Leaf scored a career-high 32 points on 14-for-18 shooting and added 14 rebounds in a 95–79 win over Washington State, which ended a two-game losing streak for No. 11 UCLA. He missed the regular season finale with a sprained left ankle, which he suffered five minutes into the prior game against Washington.
Leaf finished the season as UCLA's leading scorer with 16.3 points per game. He also averaged 8.2 rebounds and ranked third in field goal percentage (61.7) among Power Five conference players. He received honorable mention from the Associated Press (AP) for their All-American team, and was named first-team All-Pac-12 along with teammates Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford. Leaf and Ball were also placed on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. On March 30, Leaf announced that he would be leaving UCLA to declare for the 2017 NBA draft.
Indiana Pacers (2017–present)
Leaf was selected by the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft with the 18th overall pick. Soon after, Leaf signed an initial three-year contract worth $7,249,200 with the Pacers. He was joined in Indiana by Anigbogu, who was selected by the Pacers in the second round. Leaf began 2017–18 as a fixture in the Pacers' rotation, averaging 16.2 minutes and five shots per contest through the first eight games. However, he struggled on defense, and his playing time fell as Indiana coach Nate McMillan tightened his rotation. In December 2017, Leaf was assigned to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G League and averaged 23.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in a three-game stint before returning to the Pacers. He finished with 52 games played during the regular season, but saw limited playing time towards the end as the Pacers qualified for the playoffs.
In 2018–19, Leaf's minutes were limited playing behind big men Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Thaddeus Young and Kyle O'Quinn. On February 28, 2019, he had a career-high 18 points in a season-high 22 minutes in a 122–115 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Leaf was forced into the game early after Turner and O'Quinn got into foul trouble guarding the Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, and held his own defensively against the All-Star center. In the regular-season finale, Leaf had career highs of 28 points and 10 rebounds in a 135–134 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Leaf worked on his jump shot during the offseason leading up to the 2019–20 season. On November 3, 2019, he had 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds while getting extra time as a backup center in a 108–95 win over the Chicago Bulls. However, he fell out of the rotation by the end of the month.
National team career
After being cut by coach Miller from the U.S. Under-19 junior national team in 2015, Leaf joined Israel's under-18 junior national team the following month in July, to play in the 2015 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship Division B in Austria. Although Israel lost 73–72 in the Division B final, Leaf was named tournament's MVP, after averaging 16.1 points per game, on 55 percent shooting, to go along with 8.4 rebounds per game in nine games played. In 2018 he said "Playing for the senior [Israel] national team and helping the guys is one goal of my career."
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
NBA G League
Accomplishments and awards
- AP honorable mention All-American (2017)
- First-team All-Pac-12 (2017)
- Pac-12 All-Freshman team (2017)
- High school
- McDonald's All-American (2016)
- Ballislife All-American (2016)
- Second-team USA Today All-USA (2016)
- Second-team Naismith All-American (2016)
- Cal-Hi Sports Division II State Player of the Year (2015)
- 2× All-CIF San Diego Section Player of the Year (2015, 2016)
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- Bolch, Ben (February 3, 2017). "Leaf scores 32 as No. 11 UCLA beats Washington State, 95-79". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017.
- Bolch, Ben (March 4, 2017). "Bryce Alford gets emotional in sendoff before UCLA's win over Washington State, 77-68". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017.
- Fowler, Clay (March 25, 2017). "Thrilling ride made UCLA basketball's season-ending loss sting". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017.
- "Ball Earns First-Team AP All-America Acclaim". UCLABruins.com. March 28, 2017. Archived from the original on April 23, 2017.
- Bolch, Ben (March 6, 2017). "UCLA's Lonzo Ball is Pac-12 freshman of the year and one of three Bruins on first team". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017.
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- "Short-handed Pacers cruise past Bulls for third straight win". ESPN.com. Associated Press. November 3, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
- Michael, J (January 18, 2020). "Insider: Unlike last season's team, Pacers venture out West from a position of strength". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- Agness, Scott (December 5, 2019). "Doug McDermott is more comfortable and productive this season, creating intriguing options for the Pacers". The Athletic. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
TJ Leaf has fallen out of the rotation and more minutes for Sabonis and Holiday has resulted in rookie center Goga Bitadze also not leaving the bench.
- "SWEDEN SNATCH GOLD, SLOVENIA PROMOTED". FIBAEurope.com. August 3, 2015. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016.
- Chavers, Kyle (March 8, 2016). "Naismith Trophy Boy's High School All-America Team presented by Hilton Worldwide" (Press release). Naismith Trophy. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016.
- "2014–15 All-San Diego Section boys basketball team". The San Diego Union-Tribune. March 25, 2015. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016.
- "2015–16 All-CIF San Diego Section boys basketball team". The San Diego Union-Tribune. March 12, 2016. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016.
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