UCLA men’s basketball to face Arizona State, Arizona in road games
Senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. dribbles past USC guard Kobe Johnson. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)
Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m.
Jan. 19, 2023 2:12 p.m.
This post was updated Jan. 19 at 5:46 p.m.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. may be in the running for the Naismith and John R. Wooden awards by the season’s end, but he has already picked up a pair of internal honors.
The senior guard/forward collected two bones – purchased from a pet store and marked with the signatures of the Bruin who boasted the most deflections in every contest – at the end of his freshman and sophomore years.
Jaquez and the rest of No. 5 UCLA men’s basketball (16-2, 7-0 Pac-12) will have the chance to rack up more deflections when they take on Arizona State (15-3, 6-1) in Tempe on Thursday before traveling to Tucson for a ranked matchup against No. 11 Arizona (15-3, 4-3) on Saturday. Jaquez, who sits second on the team in deflections through the first 18 games, said the bone helps motivate players as the regular season continues.
“You have to find excuses to want to play, play your hardest, and I think wanting to get the bone – wanting to sign the bone after a game – is just another excuse on why you need to play hard,” Jaquez said.
In addition to his standing among the Bruins in deflections, Jaquez trails only junior guard Jaylen Clark in steals and freshman forward Adem Bona in blocks. But while the trio of Jaquez, Clark and Bona lead the blue and gold on defense, redshirt freshman guard Will McClendon has been the most efficient at keeping the ball in the Bruins’ hands on the other side of the floor.
McClendon paces UCLA with zero turnovers in 101 minutes of play across 10 games this season. The guard, who missed all of last season because of an ACL tear, is still finding his rhythm, but coach Mick Cronin said he wants McClendon to shoot the ball even more despite the guard shooting just 18.8% from the floor.
“Now, I’m actually on him to be more aggressive,” Cronin said. “He’s capable more offensively, so I got to make sure he knows I want him to try and do that more and more.”
The guard emphasized that he is working to be the player his coach needs.
“I’m just really trying to find ways to impact the team and help the team win,” McClendon said. “Every day, day by day, I’m just trying to get better at different aspects of the game, and coach needs me to score more. I’m working on that every day in practice.”
McClendon is second among non-starting freshmen in minutes per game at 10.1, trailing freshman guard Dylan Andrews’ 10.7 mark while surpassing freshman guard/forward Abramo Canka’s seven-minute average.
Cronin added that the Bruins will need meaningful minutes from McClendon and other young players when they face the Sun Devils, who distribute playing time in a more balanced way than his team does.
“Arizona State plays 10 guys, consistently 10 guys, so our starters are not going to be able to log and play the Iron Man-type minutes against Arizona State,” Cronin said. “It’s going to be Dylan, Will, Abramo, Kenny (redshirt senior forward/center Kenneth Nwuba), Mac (redshirt freshman forward Mac Etienne). Those guys are going to have to give us some quality minutes.”
The Sun Devils have nine players currently averaging more than 15 minutes per game, and another two averaging over 10 with none eclipsing the 30-minute mark.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have two players – Jaquez and redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell – averaging over 30 minutes a game and four more averaging over 20, with none beyond the top six reaching the 15-minute mark.
Arizona’s roster construction is more similar to UCLA, with five players tallying 28 minutes per game or more and led by guard Kerr Kriisa’s 30.2 minutes per game.
As the players contend with two different rotations, UCLA will have the chance to extend its winning streak to 14 on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Desert Financial Arena.