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The Jaquez way: UCLA’s Gabriela and Jaime Jaquez Jr. the key to sibling toughness.

Gabriela Jaquez’s older brother was the quietest fan on the field. With these hands folded in her lap and her long legs stretched across the back of a seat in Pauley Pavilion she sat as she watched her sister play in the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Jaquez didn’t get a reaction until Jaime Jaquez Jr. took a steal and scored on the other end with a back-to-back fadeaway shot off one leg. At the urging of his teammates, the UCLA men’s basketball star sheepishly clapped for his little sister as a wide smile split his face.

Gabriela’s critical fourth-quarter play will help cheer the Jaquez family all weekend, as she and Jaime become the first sibling duo to reach the Sweet 16 in the same year in their respective tournaments. Jaime leads UCLA’s No. 2 men’s team against No. 3 Gonzaga in Las Vegas on Thursday, while Gabriela and the women’s team will try to upset No. 1 South Carolina in Greenville, SC, on Saturday.

While Gabriela, a freshman, is playing in her first NCAA tournament, every game could be her brother’s last in a UCLA uniform. The senior forward is coming off an illustrious college career that saw him go from a steady spark off the bench to the Pac-12 player of the year.

When Jaime arrived as a freshman, UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close immediately noticed the way she pulled down rebounds and looked for extra possessions. He didn’t always show up on the stat sheet, but good things always seemed to happen to him on the court. He was sure he would become a star at UCLA.

“And,” Close said, “I think (Gabriela’s) will be the same.”

A 5-foot-11 forward, Gabriela has 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game for the No. 4 Bruins (27-9). In a team with one of the deepest benches in the tournament, Gabriela stands out for the same intangibles that define his brother’s game. He drains, deflects passes, sets screens.

“It’s tough,” Jaime said, noting their similar playing styles. “It’s difficult as a freshman. But he has taken his time there and is making the most of it.”

It is no coincidence that the siblings behave with a striking resemblance. The three Jaquez children, including youngest brother Marcos, who is a senior at Camarillo High and starred on the football and basketball teams, all learned the game from their parents, Jaime Sr. and Angela, who met as college basketball players at Concordia in Irvine. . Jaime Sr. trained his children to value defense and rebounding.

That, too, is the first line in Close’s coaching manual.

“I want to bottle up what their family taught them,” Close said after Gabriela scored seven points with five rebounds and three steals in UCLA’s second-round win over Oklahoma.

Against the Sooners, the Jaquez family’s only McDonald’s All-American played four positions, from kicker to center.

UCLA forward Gabriela Jaquez (23) shoots against South Carolina guard Brea Beal during the first half in Columbia, SC on Nov. 29, 2022.

(Nell Redmond/Associated Press)

“It’s hard. It’s hard as a freshman. But he has taken his time there and is making the most of it.”

– Brother Jaime Jaquez Jr.

With five freshmen, UCLA is one of the youngest teams in the tournament, but also one of the deepest with a 10-man rotation. Gabriela, who averaged 34.2 points, 15.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals as a Camarillo senior, didn’t know where she would fit in when she entered summer workouts. He didn’t care.

“The most important thing for me when I’m in a team is to win,” he said.

Gabriela’s movement without the ball makes her the perfect cutter in Close’s system. Its hardness is a given. Where the freshman will grow the most in his career, Close predicts, is his ball handling, passing and ability to create shots off the bounce.

Once those skills arrive, “the sky’s the limit for Gabs,” Close said.

Underrated as a forward but still improving his guarding skills, Gabriela’s mid-range status initially held off his recruitment. UCLA was his dream school, but he didn’t get an official offer until July 2021. It was the summer before senior year. The interest delay is still a running joke between Close and Gabriela, who has finally forgiven her coach for taking so long.

“Better late than never,” Close said, “and boy am I glad to have him.”

Jaime Jr. he is also happy. If they have free time, the fashionable siblings will go shopping or play chess. They watched a UCLA football game together last fall and Jaime made chicken fettuccine Alfredo. It’s her favorite meal and maybe the only thing she can cook, Gabriela said with a laugh in November.

For parents, the season has been a whirlwind of airports and hotels as they hope to attend as many games as possible. Jaime Sr. organizes the route of the trip in an Excel spreadsheet. As of Wednesday afternoon, Gabriela was hoping to start her parents’ anticipated Sweet 16 week by attending her brother’s game in Las Vegas. Her aunt will gather family friends to ask for help from UCLA in Greenville, SC

With their postseason work, Gabriela has been a popular request for interviews lately. But with the Jaquezes becoming the first family in UCLA athletics, following Dave and Ann Meyers and other siblings like Jrue, Aaron and Lauren Holiday, Gabriela hasn’t quite figured it out yet. It’s a great opportunity, he confirmed, and it’s exciting for his family that UCLA fans can celebrate both programs in this way, but playing alongside his brother and starring is just what they’ve always done, he said.

Just call it Jaquez mode.

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