When Oded Ketch entered the offices of Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the first names that appeared in the lists was that of one who has returned and risen every summer in recent years - TJ Leaf. After the signing of Tomer Ginat in Hapoel Tel Aviv, Yad Eliyahu attacked the midfielder and were sure that this time, After years of courting, the deal will be finalized.
Finally, after prolonged discussions, Leaf chose to reject the offer and avoid returning to Israel.
in the ways of the father
For many young people, the question that has occupied them since childhood is what they will do when they grow up.
For TJ Leaf there was never any question or hesitation, that's how you're born with a basketball in your hand.
Leaf, or in his full name - Ty Jacob "T.J."
Leaf, understood from the day he was born, what the future holds for him.
Leaf was born in Tel Aviv as the son of Keren and Brad Leaf, the famous former player who played in Israel for seventeen seasons, in the ranks of Hapoel Galil Aliyon and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and even got to wear the national uniform and represent the Israeli national team.
As a child, young Leaf lived for two and a half years in Tel Aviv, at the end of his father's career in the Yellow Club, until he and his family left Israel and migrated to the United States, where the family settled in the state of California.
In high school, the boy played on the basketball team coached by his father and began to see a little of the sparks of talent that lay within him.
In his sophomore year, he averaged 27.4 points, 14.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.7 blocks per game, leading his high school to the San Diego County Class B championship in California, with local media even naming him the county's player of the year.
Father Brad (center) in Maccabi Tel Aviv uniform, photo: AFP
At the end of the season, he was invited to participate in the prestigious McDonald's All-American game, which brings together the best players in the United States of high school age for an organized exhibition game in front of the scrutinizing eyes of the best basketball minds around the world.
After graduating high school in 2014, the promising forward committed to Arizona College, coached by coach Sean Miller, and tried out for the U.S. Under-19 national team, also coached by Miller.
Unfortunately, he was suspended in the training camp and did not play in the team's uniform.
Two months later Leaf withdrew from his commitment to Arizona, and after three months he signed an agreement to play for the prestigious UCLA college in Los Angeles.
After an impressive debut season in college in which he averaged wonderful 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists, Leaf decided to try his luck and make himself available for selection in the 2017 draft. The wonderful averages and the promising potential made the Indiana Pacers of the NBA, put their hands on the young diamond and selected The same in the 18th pick.
However, unfortunately and unfortunately, the midfielder lived alone in the best league in the world, talent on paper is not enough, and you need to provide receipts for expectations.
In the uniform of the Israeli national team.
Not interested in returning to the senior team, photo: Alan Shiver
After three seasons, during which he had trouble living up to expectations, participated in 139 of the team's 237 games in the regular season and averaged 3.3 points and 2 rebounds per game throughout the period, he was traded to Oklahoma City, who released him even before the start of the season.
For a few months he sat out until Portland signed him to a temporary two-way contract and the feeling was that this was the last chance before he was definitively ejected from the best league in the world.
In the short period with the Blazers, Leaf participated in seven games and received an average of only 5 minutes.
In the summer of 2021, he no longer had jumpers - except for Maccabi Tel Aviv - but the player was not enthusiastic about coming to Israel and did not respond to courtships. He sat out for a few months until he signed a huge contract in Guangzhou, China. Due to the restrictions of the Corona virus, a considerable period of time passed before he arrived in the country and made his debut in the new team.
From the moment he stepped onto the court, Leaf released himself and showed his abilities once again with averages of 25 points and 11.7 rebounds, which led him to be selected as the forward of the season and the top five of the season and re-raised his value in the market and opened the possibility of signing with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which according to senior sources in the industry expressed great interest in the player and was close to signing it in the summer.
The name of the Yellows came up again and again every summer in recent years and was linked to the Israeli-American player, but the connection, which on the surface seemed logical, never materialized.
Sources in the industry say that the deal, which was on the verge of being signed, did not fall through due to irreconcilable financial differences, and even point out that the actor's Israeli agent and other people around him wanted to see him land in Tel Aviv.
Despite the desire of the Yellows and a respectable financial offer that was placed on his table, the player asked for a few days to think, but finally chose to return to China, in a surprising professional decision that raises questions about the extent of the player's desire to return to Israel and deal with the pressure and expectations caused by the Yellow club, after the difficult years he spent in NBA.
They gave up chasing him
The Israeli national team is also wondering about the player's pitcher.
Leaf previously played for the youth team and helped it rise to the first level of the European Championship, while he was chosen as the outstanding player of the tournament.
Despite this, the player, who is considered Israeli, has not yet made his debut in the national uniform of the senior team and does not seem to be close to doing so either.
Sources around the team describe a situation in which Leaf expresses no interest in returning to Israel and playing for the team, and even refrains from answering the calls of the basketball union members, who had to chase him until they stopped trying.
As with the choice to refuse Maccabi Tel Aviv's offer, the player's considerations in the Israeli national team are not necessarily professional, according to sources in a conversation with Israel Hayom, but a choice of the convenient option, as well as the choice to return to the relatively weak Chinese league.
Even today, five years after he began his senior career, TJ Leaf remains an enigma.
From the great promise in the colleges, the great disappointment in his ability, in which he was cut from the league and the choice to settle in China, his life path continues to be an enigma, a Leaf enigma.
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