UCLA appears to be toting some good luck with it to Las Vegas, at least on the injury front.
Coach Steve Alford said Tuesday that power forward TJ Leaf’s sprained left ankle was “progressing really well” and should allow him to play in the team’s Pac-12 Conference tournament opener at T-Mobile Arena against USC or Washington.
“Our full intent is to have him Thursday night,” Alford said.
Alford said he would ease Leaf back into practice Tuesday after a two-day break for players. Leaf injured the ankle March 1 during the opening minutes of the third-ranked Bruins’ game against Washington, forcing him to sit out the rest of that game and his team’s regular-season finale three days later against Washington State.
Leaf ranks second among the Bruins in scoring (16.3 points per game) and rebounding (8.4), and leads all rotation players by making 63.0% of his shots and 46.2% of his three-point attempts.
Reserve forward Gyorgy Goloman had two of his best games in Leaf’s absence, averaging 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.
“We hope that’s helped him and given him some confidence in what he can do,” Alford said, “because I thought he had some really good minutes in both of those games.”
Point guard Lonzo Ball was selected national freshman of the year by USA Today and the Sporting News. Ball was also selected the U.S. Basketball Writers Assn. All-District IX player of the year and Leaf made the first team. … Bryce Alford is among five finalists for the Jerry West Award, given to college basketball’s top shooting guard by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Ball is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award that goes to the best point guard. … Center Thomas Welsh was selected second-team academic All-Pac-12 after compiling a 3.17 grade-point average. … UCLA will compete with Baylor, Creighton and Wisconsin next season in the Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 20-21 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The matchups have not been announced. … UCLA's average home attendance of 11,183 per game was its highest since 1995-96 (11,872), the season after its last national championship.