He scored the primary factors of UCLA’s season on a two-handed dunk.
Earlier than the No. 8 Bruins completed with their 76-50 pole-axing of Sacramento State of their season opener on Monday night time, he was dancing round confused defenders within the lane and hovering over gravity-bound opponents for rebounds.
He caught as much as a Sacramento State participant on a quick break and pinned his layup in opposition to the backboard.
By no means thoughts that he was known as for goaltending. Jaime Jaquez Jr. was shifting like he’d by no means moved earlier than.
No matter mobility Jaquez misplaced due to the bone spurs and chips in his ankle was regained within the surgical process he underwent within the offseason. Jaquez is now entire, and UCLA is, too.
Lastly, Jaquez appears as if he’s able to make the leap to stardom that was anticipated of him 12 months earlier.
The senior ahead might be an All-American — and extra.
With the Lakers within the dumps once more and the Clippers relying on Kawhi Leonard’s unreliable knee, UCLA has an opportunity to be the No. 1 basketball attraction on the town and Jaquez essentially the most beloved participant.
“Just trying to get back to what I was,” Jaquez advised reporters final month.
A breakout performer in UCLA’s Closing 4 run two seasons in the past, Jaquez averaged 12.3 factors per recreation within the 2020-21 season and 13.9 factors final 12 months.
Very, very, only a few gamers this point in time would have performed on with bone spurs of their ankle with a professional profession in entrance of them. He was taking part in on two unhealthy wheels final 12 months.
— UCLA coach Mick Cronin on Jaime Jaquez Jr.
He began his ultimate collegiate season with 14 environment friendly factors, making seven of 9 pictures from the sector whereas accumulating seven rebounds in 32 minutes.
Jaquez scored 12 factors within the first half, after which the Bruins have been forward, 39-25. With the sport already determined, Jaquez tried only one shot in 13 minutes within the second interval.
Extra vital was how Jaquez scored on the attention check.
He moved extra freely than he did at any level final season. He was extra explosive. He wasn’t restricted to post-up strikes.
“Running faster, jumping higher, all that,” coach Mick Cronin stated.
Jaquez’s well being will likely be crucial to the Bruins’ success, as Cronin stated that for UCLA to be a “great team,” Jaquez and level guard Tyger Campbell need to be All-American-caliber gamers.
Jaquez wasn’t that participant final 12 months. He performed within the Candy 16 in opposition to North Carolina with a sprained ankle and UCLA misplaced.
“But even when Jaime was hurt, he was never going to let you know,” Cronin stated. “He’s a throwback. He’s like the guys in the ’80’s, like [Kevin] McHale, who played in the playoffs with a broken foot.”
Jaquez was slowed by ankle issues your complete season. He missed practices. He even missed a January recreation in opposition to Oregon State. He thought of ending his season prematurely.
“There were times when he couldn’t even jump,” his father Jaime Sr. stated within the spring to Ben Bolch of The Occasions. “He was just trying to muscle through the whole entire season and did the best he could.”
By persevering with to play, he earned the admiration of the opposite gamers.
“I was really impressed with him just sticking to it all last year,” fifth-year senior guard David Singleton stated.
Cronin shared an identical sentiment.
“Very, very, very few players this day and age would have played on with bone spurs in their ankle with a pro career in front of them,” Cronin stated. “He was playing on two bad wheels last year.”
Shortly after UCLA was eradicated, Jaquez underwent an operation to restore his ankle.
“The doctors couldn’t believe when they looked in there, what they saw and what he was able to do with what he had in there,” Jaime Sr. stated.
That was solely the beginning, because the process was adopted by months of rehabilitation and power coaching.
“For him to be 100% now, I’m so proud of him,” Singleton stated. “The amount of work he put in, the amount of physical therapy with the trainers, the strength training, I’m just so proud of him and [looking forward to] seeing how he’s going to pan out because I believe he’s an NBA professional athlete.”
“He’s definitely,” stated guard Jaylen Clark, who nodded in settlement.
Singleton continued: “To see him fulfill that dream step by step is a beautiful thing.”
Jaquez could have that chance, and extra, over the following 5 months. He’s actually wholesome sufficient.