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UCLA’s TJ Leaf hopes to return for Pac-12 Conference tournament

UCLA forward TJ Leaf drives against Washington's Noah Dickerson in the first half on March 1.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

UCLA might not be without TJ Leaf for long.

Brad Leaf, the father of the Bruins freshman power forward, told The Times in an email Thursday that his son hoped to return for his team’s Pac-12 Conference tournament opener on March 9 after spraining his left ankle Wednesday during UCLA’s victory over Washington.

Brad Leaf said his son intended to get back on the court Sunday with a light workout, meaning he would miss the Bruins’ final regular-season home game Saturday against Washington State. TJ Leaf would then try to expand his movements each day leading up to the conference tournament, where No. 3 UCLA (27-3 overall, 14-3 Pac-12) has a bye into the quarterfinal round.

“He had a few bad sprains in high school,” said Brad Leaf, who coached TJ at Foothills Christian High in El Cajon, “so he knows what he is dealing with.”

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Leaf is UCLA’s second-leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game after his injury limited him to only five minutes against the Huskies. He leaped to block a shot and rolled his ankle when he landed, forcing him out of the game.

UCLA Coach Steve Alford joked with Leaf about his stat line after the game and Leaf’s teammates appeared to be in a jovial mood, indicating that the injury was not believed to be serious.

“It’s a tough one but he’ll bounce back,” Bruins point guard Lonzo Ball said afterward. “He’ll be fine.”

UCLA junior forward Gyorgy Goloman will probably start against Washington State in Leaf’s absence, with Alford saying Wednesday that his team could also use the four-guard lineup it had abandoned in recent weeks. Goloman had one of his best games after Leaf was hurt, finishing with eight points and six rebounds in a season-high 26 minutes.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch


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