UCLA star Jaime Jaquez Jr. announces return to Bruins for 2022-23 season
Jaime Jaquez Jr. has unfinished business.
The star UCLA forward will remain in Westwood for one final season. Jaquez announced on social media that he’ll return for the 2022-23 season, his fourth with the Bruins. “When I committed here, we wanted to get this program back on the national stage, back where it belongs among the nation’s elite. I’m proud of what we accomplished the last three years, but there’s some unfinished business,” he said. “I came to UCLA to win a national championship. Shouldn’t that be the goal? I want to hang banner No. 12 in Pauley Pavilion.”
— Jaime Jaquez Jr (@jaquez_jr) April 18, 2022
With the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year jumping to the NBA, the league’s leading scorer exhausting his eligibility, and Jaquez presumably getting a full offseason to rest those ankles and heal up, the UCLA forward will no doubt enter the 2022-23 season as a favorite to be the next league POY. Jaquez has that kind of talent.
And as the 2021-22 season wound down, UCLA turned to him more and built around that talent.
Jaquez was one of the five finalists for the Julius Erving Award this 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. He scored 20 points on seven different occasions, even reaching 30 in a road contest with Washington on Feb. 28. If his Jaquez can improve his perimeter shot (27.6% this season), he can take the reins as one of the country’s best players.
Already, though, Jaquez is one of the most accomplished players the Pac-12 has to offer. 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 in a statement. “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.”
And that proved to be a selling point for Jaquez.
“UCLA has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Growing up, my family taught me about the legacy of John Wooden and of UCLA’s dominant teams in the 60s and 70s. Those stories have always stuck with me. Wearing that UCLA jersey is about representing all the players who came before us. It’s very special to me to put on that jersey with my family’s name on the back, but to represent those four letters on the front has been a dream come true.”
And that’ll become more of a shared experience here soon. By returning for another year, Jaquez will also be able to spend a season at UCLA alongside his younger sister, Gabriela, a McDonald’s All-American who will join the UCLA women’s basketball program in the fall.
The Bruins will await decisions now from fellow wing players Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard. With Jaquez back and the Bruins looking like an early favorite for not just a Pac-12 title but a national title run, maybe those decisions become easier. No doubt things are looking pretty rosy in Westwood.