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UCLA Bruins F T.J. Leaf joins Lonzo Ball, declares for NBA draft

By The Sports Xchange

TJ Leaf joined UCLA teammate Lonzo Ball and declared his intention Thursday to leave school after one season to enter the NBA Draft.

The school announced that Leaf plans to hire an agent. The 6-foot-10 freshman power forward is expected to be a lottery pick in the June 22 draft. He is projected to be the 11th overall selection by nbadraft.net.

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"This was a huge decision for me and my family," Leaf said. "It was definitely one of the hardest decisions in my life."

During a season that ended in the NCAA Sweet 16 with a loss to Kentucky, Leaf averaged a team-best 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.7 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from 3-point range for UCLA (31-5),

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"The fans were amazing and made for a great year," Leaf said. "The coaches were the best I've had, and I can't thank them enough, especially Coach (Steve) 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."

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In addition to Leaf and Ball, the Bruins also lose seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton.

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"TJ had such a great season for us, and I completely support his decision to pursue his dream," Alford said in a statement. "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. TJ 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."

Junior center Thomas Welsh, sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday and freshman center Ike Anigbogu have not yet decided whether to return to UCLA next season.

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The deadline to declare for the NBA draft is April 23. The withdrawal deadline is June 12.

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