247Sports predicts the 2022-23 Pac-12 Player of the Year will come from UCLA
Jaime Jaquez Jr. is making the NBA wait another year in order to make a run at a national title with UCLA.
Surely a Pac-12 Player of the Year trophy in his final season wouldn’t hurt, either, right?
The folks at 247Sports took a stab at predicting who will earn the conference Player of the Year honors in each of the top six leagues in college basketball—ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC—and they think Jaquez is the clear favorite to claim the honor for the Conference of Champions.
Here’s what 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter wrote on Jaquez:
“Jaquez opting to come back to UCLA for another season is a huge win for Mick Cronin. The do-it-all forward is just fantastic in almost every regard of the game. Jaquez might get to flex his muscles as a lead scorer even more for a UCLA team that has lost Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard. Jaquez is sitting on a career year if Cronin ramps up his usage rate and Jaquez decides to be even more aggressive offensively.”
With Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin jumping to the NBA and each of the Pac-12’s top seven scorers from a year ago no longer around, there’s a void at the top for the distinction of “Best player in the Pac-12.” Of course, that’s only if you don’t think Jaquez already lays claim to such a distinction.
He has a pretty solid claim, to be fair.
Jaquez was one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Award last season, given to the nation’s top small forward. He helped the Bruins to a 27-8 record and nearly to a Pac-12 title. UCLA lost to Arizona in the conference championship game, though the Bruins are in a strong position to make that up next year.
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 13.9 points, 5.7 boards, and 2.3 assists last season while shooting 47% from the field and 76% from the free throw line. In seven games played during the month of March, Jaquez averaged 18 a game, elevating his play when the pressure turned up. On the year, he scored 20 points on seven different occasions, even reaching 30 in a road contest with Washington on Feb. 28. If Jaquez can improve his perimeter shot (27.6% this season), he can take the reins as one of the country’s best players.
He’s a two-time league All-Defensive Team honoree and earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors this past season.
“Jaime has been a tremendous and tenacious player in our program for three years, and we are thrilled that he will come back for his senior season in Westwood,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said when his return was made official. “Jaime has a chance to go down with so many other great Bruins in UCLA history who have played four seasons in front of the Pauley Pavilion faithful.”
Point guard Tyger Campbell is also on the shortlist for the POTY award, with 247Sports listing him with four other players in the “strongly in the mix” category. That group includes Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis, Oregon’s Will Richardson, Stanford’s Harrison Ingram, and USC’s Drew Peterson.
247Sports also views incoming guard Amari Bailey as a darkhorse candidate for the award. Others in that category include Arizona’s Courtney Ramey, Colorado’s Tristan da Silva, Oregon’s Kel’el Ware, USC’s Boogie Ellis, Washington’s Keion Brooks Jr., and Washington State’s Mouhamed Gueye.