UCLA star Jaime Jaquez will declare for the 2023 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility, he told ESPN on Thursday.
“I had an amazing journey graduating from UCLA,” Jaquez said. “I want to thank all my coaches, teammates and staff for helping me along this journey.”
Jaquez, the No. 34 prospect in ESPN’s NBA draft projections, was a consensus All-American, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and winner of the Lute Olson National Player of the Year award.
“My goal when enrolling at UCLA was never personal accolades,” Jaquez said. “It was to restore UCLA to basketball conversations. When I was growing up, there were some down years. I wanted to propel the program back in the right direction. I didn’t think I would be in this position when I graduated.”
Jaquez averaged 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, leading UCLA to a Pac-12 championship and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. UCLA made its third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, losing on a last-second shot to Gonzaga, with Jaquez posting 29 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Jaquez, who helped UCLA make the NCAA Final Four in 2021, ranks in the program’s top 10 in career points and steals and is 11th in rebounds. He was a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and a two-time all-defensive team member.
A senior, Jaquez could have come back for a fifth year thanks to the extra year of eligibility granted to all student-athletes in 2020 after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew this was my last year at UCLA coming in,” Jaquez said. “It never crossed my mind, returning. I wanted to do everything I could to win a national championship, but I’m proud of everything we accomplished in my four years here.”
Bruin 4 life 💛💙 pic.twitter.com/1nvJZCKvsE
— Jaime Jaquez Jr (@jaquez_jr) April 6, 2023
At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Jacquez is attractive to NBA teams because of the way he contributes to winning with his productivity, feel for the game, defensive instincts, toughness and two-way versatility. He played a variety of roles at UCLA, operating as a primary ball handler and offensive playmaker while guarding everyone from point guards through centers.
Jaquez says he knows he’ll be asked to play a different role in the NBA than how he was used as the focal point in UCLA’s offense.
“It’s going to be a smooth transition because I know how to play with other great players, whether it’s defending the other team’s best player, knocking down open shots, or being a playmaker and facilitator,” Jaquez said. “I’m an underrated passer. I believe in my shooting and the work I put in. I know I can shoot the ball. I’ll do whatever, as long as we win.”
Jaquez, who is Mexican American, was invited to USA Basketball camps on four occasions between the age of 15 to 17, but he elected to represent the Mexican national team at the Pan Am Games in 2019. He received a call-up to Mexico’s senior team and says he expects to represent Mexico in FIBA tournaments moving forward.
The NBA draft combine will be held May 15-21 in Chicago, and the draft will be June 22 in Brooklyn.
“Wherever I get drafted, I don’t care,” Jaquez said. “I’m going to make some sort of impact. People are going to feel like I impacted their organization. Jimmy Butler, Josh Hart … those are the guys I study. They have a different mentality; they play to win.”
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.