T.J. Leaf becomes second UCLA freshman to declare for 2017 NBA Draft

UCLA freshman T.J. Leaf declared for the NBA Draft on Thursday.

“This was a huge decision for me and my family,” Leaf said in a statement. “It was definitely one of the hardest decisions in my life. I have decided to declare for the NBA Draft with the intent of hiring an agent. I just want to thank everyone at UCLA. The fans were amazing and made for a great year. The coaches were the best I’ve had, and I can’t thank them enough, especially Coach Alford. I will always love my UCLA family so much, in particular the amazing teammates I had this past year. They are like brothers to me. This was the most fun year of basketball I’ve had in my entire life, and I will definitely miss it. But, I cannot wait to start my new journey. Thanks to everyone in the UCLA family, and Go Bruins!”

The 6-foot-10 foward was one of the biggest factors in UCLA’s return to national prominence this season. Leaf lead the team in scoring with 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and despite not getting as much attention as point guard Lonzo Ball, he was arguably just as important for the Bruins’ success -- a team that finished 31-5 after a 15-17 record last season.

Leaf joins Ball as the second UCLA freshman to declare for the NBA draft. Ball declared immediately after UCLA’s loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. 

Both Ball and Leaf are expected to be first-round picks.

“T.J. had such a great season for us, and I completely support his decision to pursue his dream,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I’m proud of what he was able to accomplish this season. He brought so much to our team, both on and off the court, and we’re certainly going to miss him. T.J. has been an absolute joy to coach, and I know that all of us at UCLA will be excited to watch him continue to grow at the next level.”

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