It’s never easy trying to overcome stereotypes and inspire people to change opinions, but Jaime Jaquez Jr. of Camarillo is positioning himself to be a trendsetter, a game changer and a role model.
At 6 feet 7 and 210 pounds, the 17-year-old senior is set to sign a letter of intent next month to play basketball at UCLA and become the Bruins’ first Latino player since Lorenzo Mata, who helped UCLA reach the Final Four in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
“It’s a pretty great feeling,” Jaquez said Saturday morning at Harbor College while preparing to play with his team in a fall tournament game only weeks before the official start of the high school season. “My dad’s family is all Mexican. It means a lot to represent my heritage and play for UCLA, where there’s a lot of Latinos. Sometimes I go to the gym and people say, ‘Latino pride.’ I’m honored to hopefully make them proud.”
Mata was a 6-9 center who played for South Gate High. He was known for his shot-blocking ability and dunks. Jaquez is going to provide plenty of excitement with his own dunking skills, but it’s his versatility that will make him a valuable contributor for the Bruins. From shooting three-pointers to offensive rebounding, Jaquez finds ways to impact a game.
“He’s an amazing basketball player,” Brentwood coach Ryan Bailey said. “I’ve seen him play a lot on the AAU circuit. He’s a kid who comes at you nonstop. You can’t rest or he’ll make you pay.”
Jaquez’s father played basketball for Camarillo and Concordia University, where he met his future wife, Angela, who also played basketball in college. Jaquez grew up playing football, basketball and soccer but said, “Basketball was always the sport I felt was for me.”
He averaged 31 points and 12.8 rebounds last season. He has been repeatedly lobbied by others to leave Camarillo. It’s never going to happen.
“I’m happy with my decision staying here with my brothers,” he said. “They’re still trying to get me out of Camarillo. ‘No, I’m good man.’ We just have a really tight group of guys who want to do this together. That’s what we’re going to do.”
It’s Jaquez’s Latino background that offers him a platform to lead and educate. When he dunks, he says, “It’s probably, ‘Wow’ and a shock.”
He went to Mexico City to try out for the Mexican national basketball team earlier this year (he didn’t make it) where he met Mata, who’s playing professional basketball in Mexico.
“He talked to me about how awesome the UCLA program is and how much fun I’m going to have,” he said.
Bailey, a former UCLA guard, said Jaquez is poised to offer inspiration and hope through his play and leadership.
“He’s somebody young Latino kids can look up to,” Bailey said. “His getting an opportunity that can open doors for others.”
It was quite a tournament this weekend. Temecula Rancho Christian, led by the Mobley brothers, defeated Torrance Bishop Montgomery, led by Oregon State-bound Gianni Hunt. Studio City Harvard-Westlake defeated Bellflower St. John Bosco in a five-point game. Ziaire Williams, one of the best young players in America, had 25 points in Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s close win over Long Beach Poly.
Final week: It’s the final week of the regular season in high school football.
Among the league-title deciders: Vista Murrieta is at Murrieta Valley on Thursday in the Southwestern League; Westlake Village Westlake is at Oaks Christian on Friday in the Marmonte League; Upland is at Rancho Cucamonga in the Baseline League.