LOS ANGELES (AP)Jaime Jaquez Jr. is having the type of senior season at UCLA most players dream about.
The 6-foot-7 guard/forward led his team in scoring and rebounding as the fourth-ranked Bruins captured their first outright regular-season Pac-12 title since 2013.
What has made the year even more enjoyable is that he isn’t the only Jaquez making an impact on the court. His sister, Gabriela, is having a solid season for the 19th-ranked Bruins women’s basketball team.
“Having a little sister around, you don’t really appreciate that when you’re in high school. But I’m older now and starting to get a little bit more wisdom. It’s a pretty cool deal,” Jaime said.
Gabriela said having her older brother around has made adjusting to college easier.
“It’s just been a lot of fun being able to hang out with him outside of basketball and doing other things,” she said. “Usually, after his games, I’ll go to his apartment. We’ll eat and talk about the game. I listen to him and his teammates talk about the game, and I try to see what I can learn from that.”
One of the highlights for both came on Nov. 7 when UCLA held a rare basketball doubleheader for the season opener.
Gabriela had 10 points and six rebounds in her first college game as the Bruins beat Cal-Poly. A couple of hours later, Jaime had 14 points and seven rebounds in UCLA’s victory over Sacramento State.
Jaime was expected to be one of UCLA’s leaders at the start of the season. He has gone beyond that and is one of the favorites for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Going into Saturday’s regular-season finale against No. 8 Arizona, Jaime is on pace to become only the sixth player in conference history to rank in the top five in the Pac-12 in scoring, rebounding and steals.
The game against the Wildcats will feature a matchup of the two favorites for player of the year. Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis leads the conference in scoring and rebounding and could become the first Pac-12 player since Cal’s Leon Powe in 2006 to lead in both categories at the end of the season.
Jaquez has deflected talk of individual honors and said the only thing he concentrates on is team honors, and trying to get UCLA (26-4) a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The more immediate task is preparing for Saturday’s game, which will also be Jaquez’s final game in Pauley Pavilion. He committed to UCLA in 2018 when the program was at one of its lowest points after firing Steve Alford less than a week before the start of conference play.
In four seasons under coach Mick Cronin, Jaquez has emerged as a fan favorite and one of Cronin’s favorite players who has played for him all four years.
“I feel like every time I’m on the floor, I keep smiling and am so happy to be playing with these guys,” said Jaquez, who is averaging 17.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. “We started with no one coming to our games, no one even wanting to, everyone overlooking us. Now we’re selling out games.”
While Jaime came in under the radar, Gabriela entered UCLA with plenty of hype as part of the top-ranked recruiting class in the country. She was the 19th-ranked player in the Class of 2023 and co-MVP of last year’s McDonald’s All-American game. The other MVP was fellow Bruins freshman Kiki Rice.
Gabriela has started two games but has mainly come off the bench while averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. She is third on the team in 3-point accuracy at 36%. The Bruins (25-8) upset No. 6 Stanford 69-65 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals Friday night. If they can beat Washington State in the championship game Sunday, it would improve their seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve been learning a lot, and there’s still a lot to learn,” she said. “We have a good team capable of winning games.”
With Jaime having two home games, Gabriela at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas and younger brother Marcos, a Camarillo High School basketball team senior, it has been another busy week of travel for the Jaquez family.
This weekend will be no exception.
On Saturday, Jaime will take part in senior night and Marcos is playing in a high school regional semifinal. Jaime Jaquez Sr. said the plan is for most of the family to be at Pauley Pavilion while some will be at the regional semifinal since both games are taking place simultaneously.
On Sunday morning, the family will quickly head to Las Vegas as the Bruins look to win the conference women’s tournament for the first time since 2006.
“It’s extremely busy, but we’re proud of all of them,” Jaime Sr. said. “Jaime loves UCLA and has been a mentor for my daughter to show what’s required of being a student. I know the men’s and women’s teams have become closer because my son and daughter hang out and talk more, so I think that’s been pretty cool.”
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