In a move as predictable and heartfelt as UCLA's pregame roll call, Jaime Jaquez Jr. said his time as a Bruin is over.
The senior forward who started his college career as a bit player and ended it as the No. 8 scorer in the school's storied basketball history announced his decision Thursday on social media as part of an all-inclusive farewell, thanking fans, teammates, coaches and trainers.
"Please know, I gave you everything that I had," wrote Jaquez, who finished his career with 1,802 points, surpassing such legends as Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich and Marques Johnson. "My four years at UCLA have been incredible, and I'll always be proud to be a Bruin. But I'm also excited about my future, my NBA dreams and my continued basketball growth."
Widely projected as a second-round pick, the 6-foot-7 Jaquez could be a draft-day steal because of his savvy, toughness, relentless defense and ability to score in a variety of ways. Jaquez joins UCLA junior guard Jaylen Clark in declaring for the draft, although the latter player said he would hire a NCAA-certified agent to preserve his option to return for another season.
Though center Kenneth Nwuba recently said he would return for a sixth season at UCLA, redshirt senior point guard Tyger Campbell, freshman guard Amari Bailey and freshman center Adem Bona all face decisions about their future. Bona is recovering from a serious shoulder injury that could compel him to return for one more season.
A consensus second-team All-American, Jaquez averaged 17.8 points and 8.2 rebounds last season on the way to being selected UCLA's first Pac-12 player of the year since Kevin Love in 2008. Jaquez helped the Bruins win the conference's regular-season title in a four-game runaway before reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Gonzaga in a heartbreaker reminiscent of UCLA's crushing loss to the Bulldogs in the 2021 Final Four.
As usual, Jaquez played his best on the biggest stage, tallying a season-high 29 points to go with 11 rebounds against Gonzaga in his final college game.
"Jaime Jaquez Jr. has shown everyone that he's a leader and a winner," UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. "It's hard for me to put into words what he has meant to our program, but he's obviously been a huge part of our success. I said it two weeks ago, and I'll say it again — we built our program around his competitive spirit and toughness, starting four years ago. Jaime has heart and he's all about hustle and hard work. He gets the job done, plain and simple."
Cronin was alluding to the resolve Jaquez showed during the Maui Invitational in 2019, earning his first career start against Michigan State because of his aggressiveness and willingness to challenge his teammates. Jaquez started every game the rest of his career with the exception of UCLA's senior night at the end of his freshman season, when he happily ceded his spot to Alex Olesinski.
Jaquez's doggedness led to him twice winning the Hungry Dog Award, a rawhide bone that goes to the player on the team who finishes a season with the most deflections, defined as tipped passes, blocks, steals and loose balls collected. He also powered through multiple ankle injuries as a junior, helping the Bruins reach the Sweet 16.
Jaquez finished his career No. 8 on UCLA's all-time steals list (178), No. 9 in games played (134) and No. 11 in rebounds (842). Last week, he was honored as the Lute Olson player of the year.
Playing his final college season while his sister Gabriela emerged as a key contributor for the UCLA women's basketball team, Jaime will now go it alone once more at the game's highest level.