Skip to main content

From Backyard Ball to Bruins, Gabriela and Jaime Jaquez Jr. Are Taking Sibling Success to Another Level

Hispanic Heritage Month: Jaime Jaquez Jr. and his sister Gabriela are a shining example of what happens when you dream big and follow through with hard work.

There was a time when Jaime Jaquez Jr. could walk the UCLA campus unfettered by the glitz of basketball fame. He could amble off to class amid the droves of other students who undoubtedly pried themselves from bed mere minutes prior.

That’s no longer the case. The kid is now the man, and he’s a brand all his own.

He and his sister, now a fellow Bruin, sat down with television host and actor Mario Lopez to chat about life, family and basketball as part of an En Fuego Sessions interview.

The subject of his early days in Westwood came up and Jaquez had an interesting tidbit.

“We weren't that good,” the 21-year-old senior out of Camarillo High School told Lopez. “No one kind of paid us any mind. We weren't even allowed to get into parties and things like that.”

It sounds a bit like an absurdist claim when you consider how high the ceiling is for the basketball star who is entering his final year ahead of next season’s NBA Draft.

He first donned those baby blues for the 2019-20 campaign, the first for head coach Mick Cronin. The Bruins would follow the previous year’s 17-win total with 19 victories. 

They have since gone on to claim 22 and 27 wins in subsequent seasons and put up a Final Four appearance as well as a Sweet Sixteen in last season’s March Madness tournament.

A lot of the success can be attributed to the 6’7” guard-forward who has improved in point and assist averages in every season he’s played at Pauley Pavilion.

Growing Up

Jaquez_Hero Image_1920x1080 copy

Gabriela Jaquez was the starting third baseman on Camarillo High School’s softball team. But that’s not where she made her name or where she earned her scholarship.

When it comes to sports, the Jaquez family devours them, finding time to enjoy all of them. Younger sibling Marcos actually plays three sports, throwing in football for good measure.

Gabriela has a similar story to her older brother Jaime in that she fell in love with UCLA at a young age. Thankfully, she was blessed with the drive and tenacity to see that dream through.

While averaging 34.2 points for the Scorpions basketball team in her senior year, she earned a scholarship to play for the Bruins.

She wasn’t just named to the McDonald’s All-American team, she later earned co-MVP honors, dropping 17 points in the game.

She was also a Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame honoree as the female athlete of the year, a All-CIF Division 1 athlete last season and MVP of the 2021-22 Coastal Canyon League and First Team All-Coastal Canyon League.

That’s a long-winded way of saying she’s pretty damn good. Though it’s also a testament to hard work and tenacity, something her current coach expounded on recently.

“It has nothing to do with her brother,” UCLA coach Cori Close said in an L.A. Times interview. “She earned it. She worked so hard to expand her skill set. She’s always been a great competitor and athlete. I’m so proud of her development and her courage to hold on to her dream to come to UCLA.”

Although, it doesn’t hurt if you grow up with two brothers in the backyard, one of whom is a current basketball star at a major program.

“I think growing up playing sports with two brothers just really pushes you to be a better athlete,” she tells Lopez. “And you learn a lot from playing with brothers. It makes you a lot tougher because you have to compete against obviously bigger and stronger people.”

Big Dreams

Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Gabriela are shining examples of what happens when you not only dream big but have the courage to follow up on those dreams with sacrifice and arduous effort.

Both athletes explain that UCLA was just a given. They weren’t going to let anything get in their way from attending their dream school.

“Man, if UCLA didn't work out,” Jaime wonders. “I didn't really know. I didn't really have a second option. Didn't really think about anything else.”

That’s a constant with two athletes who treat their endeavors with frivolity but also unwavering concentration. “Yeah, I really went in with that mentality. It's either here or nowhere else.”

Gabriela is known for her tough way of playing, putting pressure on the other team, and hustling after every ball. It’s indicative of someone chasing after something.

“Since I was a little kid, I always told my grandparents and my family, I'm going to go play basketball at UCLA,” she said. “And I always have that ingrained in my head. And then I started playing basketball. I just worked really hard in practice to become a D1 athlete and it paid off. And here I am going to UCLA, my dream school, and it's just surreal.”

So, you cross one thing off your lifetime goals and look to the next line in the ledger. It’s clear where things are headed for Jaime. Someone who has always known where the story is headed but manages to revel in each unfolding chapter.

Lopez asks Jaime where to next. Without a moment of hesitation, he answers, “to go to the NBA."

"Yeah, that's a dream for sure. Go to the NBA, have a nice, long career, retire. And then who knows? Go from there. Yeah, I think I take it one step at a time. I don't try to look too far. Don't try to look too far back either. Just kind of stay in the moment. Go from there.”

The Jaquez kids almost delight in the kind of effort it takes to see things through. The reason is quite simple for these Mexican-American kids from Ventura County. It’s Jaime Sr. and Angela.

“I think my parents are a big factor in where we are in our life right now because, without them, we wouldn't be able to attend all the practices we went to,” Gabriela continued. “We wouldn't be the athletes and people we are today without them.”

Sacrifice is a virtue. And a work ethic is passed down like an heirloom for the younger generation to reap and enjoy.

“I'm very grateful for them because it's not easy to wake up at 6 a.m. to drive two hours to a game or practice every week, every weekend. And not all parents are willing to do that and not all parents are willing to give all their time to their kids. And we're very thankful for that because they knew that we had goals and dreams for ourselves. And it truly did pay off.”