Men’s basketball receives recognition from Pac-12 preseason accolades
Junior guard Johnny Juzang (left) and junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. (right) both represented UCLA men’s basketball on Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco. Both players were named to the preseason All-Pac-12 First Team. (Courtesy of John McGillen/Pac-12)
By Jon Christon
Oct. 14, 2021 12:15 a.m.
The Bruins left Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day with a number of preseason accolades.
UCLA men’s basketball sent coach Mick Cronin, junior guard Johnny Juzang and junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. to San Francisco for the conference’s annual preseason media day. At the event, UCLA grabbed the top spot in the Pac-12’s preseason media poll and was two votes away from a unanimous selection, with Oregon being the only other team garnering first-place votes.
Jaquez said the buzz is starting to catch up around Westwood.
“Going out – whether it’s to eat, or going to go to the grocery store, or going even to the movies – you go out and you can’t go out without someone asking for a picture,” Jaquez said. “It’s what you ask for when you go to UCLA. You want the big stage; you want the recognition.”
In 2020, the Bruins were picked first in the conference in the preseason media poll but finished fourth in the Pac-12 in the regular season. The last time UCLA earned the top spot in the polls and later won the Pac-12 crown in the same season was in 2008.
Like the 2007-2008 team, the Bruins are coming off a Final Four run. UCLA is welcoming back its entire starting five from last year’s postseason run, and Cronin said he hopes the team’s experience can help lead the Bruins to the same fate as the 2008 squad – a second straight Final Four appearance.
“It’s just the advantage of having a veteran team,” Cronin said. “Your starting point is a little further down the line. Hopefully, your endpoint is further down the line as well.”
Along with the first-place finish in the preseason poll, UCLA had three of its returning players selected for preseason All-Pac-12 teams – Juzang, Jaquez and redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell – along with one honorable mention recipient.
Juzang’s preseason All-Pac-12 selection is one of multiple honors the junior guard has received in the offseason, including multiple preseason All-American selections.
With three players being named to the preseason All-Pac-12 First Team, UCLA took up three of the 10 spots – the most of any team.
Campbell was the only Bruin who earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors in the regular season a year ago, with his 10.4 points and 5.4 assists per game being good enough for him to be named one of the 10 best players in the conference by the coaches.
While Jaquez and Juzang were represented on stage Wednesday, Cronin said Campbell deserves recognition for his efforts in the offseason.
“We’ve really worked hard with his shooting in the offseason. … He’s going to really shock some people with that,” Cronin said. “Part of his growth, and (Jaquez and Juzang) went through it, is making sure he knows we have more trust in him to just be more aggressive at times to create more offense.”
Freshman guard/forward Peyton Watson rounds out the Bruins’ All-Pac-12 selections with an honorable mention in the voting results. Despite not playing a high school season last year before joining the Bruins, Watson was one of two freshmen who earned All-Pac-12 honors Wednesday.
However, Cronin said his priority is helping Watson adjust to playing at the college level before worrying about expectations.
“Peyton being the only freshman, I have to remind myself and my assistants, you have to help him because we’re at warp speed with everybody else,” Cronin said. “He hasn’t even played college basketball, and he didn’t even play high school last year, so we really have to help him the most.”
With the season set to begin in less than a month, Juzang said he can’t wait to live up to the first-place and All-Pac-12 First-Team recognitions in front of the Bruin faithful.
“We’re just ready to compete and get after it,” Juzang said. “It’s awesome that (the fans) are able to be there and watch it live. I know they’re excited, and we’re just as excited.”