2016 forward T.J. Leaf on Indiana: ‘It’ll be hard to say no’

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Before 2016 Foothills Christian (Calif.) power forward T.J. Leaf planned his first-ever visit to Indiana University, he heard the hype from his parents.

He heard the most about IU from his father, Brad, who grew up in the Indianapolis area and played at Evansville from 1979 to 1982. He heard how beautiful the campus was; how great the lifestyle was.

“But once we set the visit, he kind of kept quiet and waited for me to actually go there to experience it,” Leaf told Inside the Hall on Wednesday evening after finishing a one-day, unofficial visit to IU earlier in the day.

His thoughts after experiencing the IU program for a day?

“It’ll be hard to say no to that.”

Leaf, a 6-foot-8 prospect, was tracked heavily by the IU coaching staff while playing on the Compton Magic during July, but came to Bloomington without a scholarship offer. On Wednesday morning, when Leaf and his family arrived on campus, IU’s coaches took him straight into a meeting in a conference room.

“And we just talked about my game and what I could do to get better,” Leaf said. “And then they just offered me and said ‘We’d love to have you here.’ It was really great.”

Leaf then had the chance to tour IU’s campus and basketball facilities and got to play with Indiana’s current team as part of an open gym.

“The campus is great, the facilities are great; overall it was just a great experience,” Leaf said. “All the coaches made me feel a part of it and the all players did, as well.

“If there was one thing that stood out, it’d probably be the coaching staff; just how coach Crean and all of them were so open to me. I think I would fit in that program really well, and they showed that to me.”

Though Leaf grew up in California, his family is still rooted in Indiana. Earlier this summer, he told Inside the Hall he visits the state every summer. This week, he is staying with his grandmother in the Indianapolis area.

Before returning to California for his sophomore year of high school, Leaf and his family will drive up to Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend for an unofficial visit to Michigan. They also are planning a visit to California later this month.

Though he does not yet have an offer from either school, his AAU coach, Etop Udo-Ema, told Inside the Hall he is not sure if Michigan will offer but expects the “rest of (the) Pac-12 will offer fast.” Leaf already has  offers from UCLA and San Diego State, and he is regarded as the No. 42 overall recruit and No. 8 power forward in the 2016 class, according to 247sports.com.

What is clear, however, is Leaf will have the chance to play basketball in the same state his father grew up in. And he plans on taking a serious look at that option.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor with a historic program like that. Coach Crean took it over and just turned it around, and now they’re one of the programs that’s on top again,” Leaf said. “So it means a lot to me that they see something in me that they would put an offer out there.

“They’re just one of the schools that a lot of kids always want to go to. They’ll definitely be a school to really, really, really think about.”

  • bfblog

    Wake me up in two years when this kid is actually nearing a decision.

  • WisconHoosier

    Recruiting is a hard game.

    TJ Leaf might come to Indiana and be an All-American. I hope so. He seems like a great kid, from a terrific family, and he has a lot of potential.

    But he could also fall out of the top 150 players nationally, and end up a bench player who rarely sees the floor.

    I don’t envy Crean’s job a bit.

  • HoosierTrav

    His skill offensively is off the charts for a 6’8″ sophomore. His footwork is fantastic as well. Anytime I see a big kid nail a euro step in transition, I get excited. It’s not an easy move to execute. He sold the head fake then went euro. That’s some serious offensive polish right there. I hope he keeps improving bc he could be very special in 2 years.

  • Blair McKee

    He’ll look better in the stripey pants than in that ugly uniform! I like his outside shot, too.

  • McDumasz

    I remember his dad…he was a badazz at Evansville!!!

  • IUMIKE1

    And might decide later this afternoon that there are some other schools that would be hard to say no to and IU isn’t that great anymore.

    It does sound like, with sound like being the key words there, we might have a little bit of an edge, for what that’s worth in the world of recruiting these days.

    You’re right about Crean’s job but then again, that’s why he makes the mega money.

  • Snookafly

    I like that shot blocking, and I especially like the way he talks about IU.

  • marcusgresham

    Compton? Yeah, that’s the first thing I thought when I saw his picture.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I know it’s early but I like this kid. He’s a solid all around player. Runs the floor great, gets back. He fights for the ball on rebounds, he not only drives to the hole but attacks the basket. Nice floater and did I see a semi-hook, twice? Defended well on the other attached youtube video even against a bigger body.
    He will grow and once he goes through our weight training program this guy could be another Brian Evans….also nice release and stroke. I say sign him up now.

  • SCHoosier

    We don’t want you to say “No”..but given recent experiences..please don’t say “Yes” until you’ve thought it through..visited a couple other schools and have a real good feel why IU is best for you. Everything I’ve seen and know say you would be a great fit in the program.

  • Brklynhoosier

    Okay, any kid w/ as much size who can play like that as a -9th- grader is gonna be really, really, really good… Not gonna get my hopes up yet, but would love to have him…

  • b_side

    I get you’re POV (especially after the JBJ situation). But at the same time, this is an iubb-only site. The purpose is to disseminate information on all topics related to the team. And since we’re in the off-season, there aren’t that many content areas more top-of-mind than recruiting, regardless of age.

    As a result of ITH, I appreciate watching potential recruits develop over time, the same way I loved seeing Sheehey grow as a spot minute freshman to one of the team’s leaders.

    Not sure how others feel, but I’d much rather have Alex and Jordan give us updates on younger recruits than not post anything at all.

    With that, I say keep it coming.

  • Tyeblaize

    His dad was a great player at the University of Evansville. If he plays with the same level of tenacity and passion, he would be a great addition. The ties to the state of Indiana should be a plus for our chances. I love that CTC recruits high character kids and TJ should fit the bill.

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