UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. is the Pac-12 participant of the 12 months

Jaime Jaquez Jr. arrived at UCLA as a willowy prospect preventing for minutes. His almost shaved head, a remnant of a rookie ritual with the Mexican nationwide group, symbolized obligatory development whereas endearing him to a bald teaching workers.

Four years later, Jaquez has sprouted right into a brawny veteran who nearly by no means leaves a recreation. His thicket of locks billowing over a blue headband has change into one other metaphor.

He’s all grown up.

Flourishing like by no means earlier than for a group that ran away with the Pac-12’s regular-season championship, Jaquez was acknowledged Tuesday by convention coaches who chosen him because the Pac-12 participant of the 12 months.

The senior ahead grew to become the Bruins’ first winner in that class since Kevin Love in 2008 and was a part of UCLA’s almost clear sweep of the convention’s main awards. Mick Cronin was honored because the Pac-12’s coach of the 12 months, Jaylen Clark was the defensive participant of the 12 months and Adem Bona the freshman of the 12 months. The solely main awards that didn’t go to the Bruins have been for most improved participant, Arizona’s Oumar Ballo, and sixth man of the 12 months, USC’s Reese Dixon-Waters

Jaquez was probably the most indispensable participant on the indisputably finest group within the Pac-12, which No. 2 UCLA received by 4 video games over Arizona and USC. While Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis led the Pac-12 in each scoring (19.8 factors per recreation) and rebounding (9.1), Jaquez was a extra full participant, given his superior protection. Jaquez averaged 17.4 factors and eight.0 rebounds whereas by no means being eliminated late in video games for defensive functions as Tubelis was.

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Jaquez was additionally a pressure late in video games, serving to the Bruins shut out current victories over Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Colorado with a flurry of factors within the closing minutes.

Cronin snagged his second convention coach of the 12 months award in 4 seasons after his Bruins received their closing 10 video games to go 18-2 in Pac-12 play, simply outdistancing the Wildcats (14-6) and Trojans (14-6). Even with two freshman starters studying his famously demanding type, Cronin’s group constructed what was clearly its finest protection since his arrival. The Bruins gave up a conference-best 60.1 factors per recreation, retaining them in each recreation even when their offense suffered prolonged lulls.

Clark was the centerpiece of that protection, averaging a Pac-12-leading 2.6 steals per recreation earlier than struggling what seemed to be a critical harm in opposition to Arizona final weekend. His closing play concerned a steal and layup earlier than departing with the unspecified harm early within the second half.

Jaime Jaquez Jr., proven dribbling previous Notre Dame’s Temple Gibbs on Dec. 14, 2019, in South Bend, Ind., moved into the beginning lineup early in his freshman season and have become the non secular cornerstone of coach Mick Cronin’s rebuilding efforts.

(Robert Franklin / Associated Press)

Moving into the beginning lineup solely a handful of video games into his freshman season, the fiery Jaquez grew to become the non secular cornerstone of Cronin’s rebuilding efforts. He helped his group attain the Final Four as a sophomore and gutted by way of bothersome ankles as a junior earlier than displaying what he may do when absolutely wholesome in his closing school season.

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Jaquez and Tyger Campbell have been named to the Pac-12’s al-conference first group, marking a 3rd consecutive choice for Campbell. Jaquez was on the primary group final season and the second group in 2020-21, making him and Campbell the Bruins’ first three-time all-conference alternatives since Darren Collison from 2007-09.

USC’s Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson additionally earned a spot on the Pac-12’s first group, with Trojans huge man Joshua Morgan making the all-defensive group.