Jaime Jaquez Jr. will return to UCLA in hopes of winning a national title

UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. practices for the NCAA tournament.
UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. has decided he will return to the Bruins for the 2022-23 basketball season.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

With three words, another season could be played.

With three words, a new ending could be written.

With three words, a fan base could rejoice.

“I’m coming back,” Jaime Jaquez Jr. said, uttering the three words that could also change the trajectory of a program.

The UCLA junior guard made his announcement near the end of a video heralding his return for one more college season Monday, taking his jersey out of his locker and slipping it over his shoulders.

With his decision, Jaquez prioritized the letters on the front of that jersey over those on the back, reaffirming his devotion to his school.

“When I committed here,” Jaquez said in the nearly 2½-minute video released on Twitter and Instagram, “I wanted to get this program back on the national stage, back where it belongs among the nation’s elite. I’m proud of what we accomplished the last three years, but there’s some unfinished business. I came to UCLA to win a national championship; shouldn’t that be the goal? I want to hang banner No. 12 in Pauley Pavilion.”


The Bruins’ prospects for their first national title since 1995 are greatly enhanced by the return of their grittiest and best all-around player who became a two-way force last season despite playing most of it on two bad ankles.

On the way to becoming a first-team All-Pac-12 player who also held the distinction of making the conference’s all-defensive team for a second consecutive season, Jaquez averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He was especially effective while unleashing a slew of effective low-post moves late in the season, averaging 19.3 points over his final eight games as the Bruins reached the Sweet 16 before losing to North Carolina.

His decision wasn’t wholly unexpected considering Jaquez’s affinity for his teammates and coaches, not to mention the sister who will arrive on campus next fall. Gabriela Jaquez, the record-setting senior guard at Camarillo High, will join Jaime as the first basketball brother-sister combination at UCLA since Dave and Ann Meyers in the 1970s. The siblings have already secured at least one name, image and likeness deal alongside their younger brother, Marcos.

Jaime Jaquez is the first of the team’s starters to publicly commit to coming back next season; Cody Riley and Jules Bernard were honored during senior day but have remaining eligibility and juniors Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell have not announced their plans.

UCLA track and field athlete Zaylon Thomas battled homelessness in middle and high school. He’s now critical to the Bruins’ sprint and jumping teams.

Long a fan favorite for his relentlessness, Jaquez’s return ensures that the Bruins will keep a prominent part of the core that helped them reach the Final Four a year ago. Freshman guard Peyton Watson recently announced he was entering the NBA draft and junior guard Jake Kyman said he was transferring to Wyoming.

Jaquez will enter his senior season ranked No. 49 on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,143 career points), having become one of 59 players in program history to tally 1,000 points.

“Jaime has been a tremendous and tenacious player in our program for three years, and we are thrilled that he will come back for his senior season in Westwood,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. “Jaime has a chance to go down with so many other great Bruins in UCLA history who have played four seasons in front of the Pauley Pavilion faithful.”

Jaquez moved into the starting lineup just eight games into his freshman season after challenging his teammates to be tougher, a standard he had already begun to uphold. Adding to his own legacy of resilience this season, Jaquez quickly returned from hitting his head on the Pauley Pavilion hardwood and getting accidentally elbowed in the face by teammate Myles Johnson. He repeatedly rolled his ankles and also dealt with inflammation, necessitating protective ankle braces for the season’s final six weeks.

UCLA’s Peyton Watson announces on social media that he’s hiring an agent and forgoing his remaining collegiate eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

“It was frustrating,” Jaquez said of his injuries in the video, “but I’m proud of how my brothers stuck together. We powered through. We didn’t reach our ultimate goal, but we gave it our all; we left everything on the court.”

As he glanced around his home court in the video, eyes tilting skyward toward all those championship banners, Jaquez said UCLA had been a part of who he is for as long as he could remember.

“It’s very special to me to put on that jersey with my family’s name on the back,” Jaquez said, “but to represent those four letters on the front has been a dream come true.”

The dream lives on. He’s coming back.