By Conor Durkin ‘21
The subject of this NCAA Athlete spotlight is the sophomore guard/forward from my favorite school, Jaime Jaquez Jr. Jaime is just 20 years old; however, he has been an absolute star for this frisky UCLA team.
Jaquez is everything that head coach Mick Cronin wants in a player. He plays lockdown defense, evident in both his steals per game and his blocks per game. He finished top 20 in steals in the PAC-12 for a second consecutive year averaging over a steal per game. In a conference with some great defenders, this is an elite list.
Jaquez averaged about 0.70 blocks per game. This may not seem as impressive, but Jaquez has had to play the four position at just 6-feet-6-inches tall due to Chris Smith’s absence. Of course, steals and blocks get the recognition, but just Jaquez’s presence disrupts offensive threats.
Jaquez also had a solid regular season offensively. He averaged 12.2 points per game while shooting just under 50% from the field. His best regular-season performance came in a win against Arizona, where he had 25 points and five rebounds. Except for the win against Washington and the loss against Colorado, Jaquez has scored over five points in each game.
He has also been extremely efficient, with his efficient field goal percentage being 55.7%. The only flaw in his game has been his free throw percentage which sits at 64%.
Jaquez carried this momentum into the tournament as he has been an absolute pleasure to watch. In the First Four game against Michigan State, he had a career-high 27 points and a crucial three-point play to send the game into overtime. His stellar night helped a struggling Bruins team get their first NCAA Tournament win in over two years. In the Round of 64 game against BYU, he had 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals to upset the 6th ranked Cougars. In the Round of 32 game against Cinderella, Abilene Christian, he contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks as the Bruins dominated the Wildcats. UCLA will take on the 2 seed, Alabama, on Saturday night at 6:15.