"I have a great relationship with coach [Steve] Alford and all the other coaches there," Leaf said during his announcement on ESPNU. "Every time I go there, it just felt like home. I just did a lot of thinking and prayer about it, and I just feel like that's where I'm supposed to be."
Leaf, ranked No. 13 in the ESPN 100, also considered Oregon and San Diego State, taking official visits to both schools. After reopening his recruitment, UCLA quickly emerged as the favorite because of its tradition, as well as its ties to Leaf's AAU program, the Compton Magic. UCLA now has three commitments from the Magic in its 2016 class and two in 2017.
"We connect really well," Leaf said of Alford. "I think we have really similar personalities. I think he has a great basketball mind and can really help me succeed."
A 6-foot-9 power forward from Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.), Leaf can score inside and out. He has multiple scoring moves with his back to the basket, including efficient and effective hook shots and turnaround jumpers. Leaf is also excellent facing the basket, capable of stretching the defense to the perimeter or taking his defender off the dribble and finishing in the lane.
He spent the summer playing for the Israeli national team in the under-18 European championships, where he won MVP honors after averaging 16.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He also was one of the most dominant players on the Adidas Uprising AAU circuit, averaging 21.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and shooting 55.4 percent from the field.
Leaf gives Alford another talented frontcourt option for next season. Sophomore Jonah Bolden redshirted last season; he and Leaf can create numerous matchup problems for defenses at the next level. They can play the forward positions together or play alongside each other in the low post.
When Alford took over at UCLA in 2013, there were questions whether he could recruit at an elite level. After a top-10 class in 2014 and a top-25 class in 2015, this group could put an end to that debate. Leaf's commitment puts the Bruins at No. 4 in the 2016 recruiting rankings. He joins five-star point guard Lonzo Ball (No. 11), ESPN 100 big man Ike Anigbogu (No. 95) and three-star forward Kobe Paras in UCLA's group.
"I am very excited to be playing with Lonzo Ball, who is a great passer," Leaf told ESPN's Paul Biancardi. "When you play with Lonzo, you have to be ready because he will find you. Also Ike Anigbogu, who is a defensive force with his shot-blocking, and Kobe Paras, who plays with great energy."
UCLA begins its season Friday, hosting Monmouth.