For anyone coming out of college into a new profession, there are many adjustments to be made. That applies to the NBA as well, and Miami Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. reflected on his so far very successful new life.
“You kind of learn a lot about yourself,” Jaquez said. “Being alone is one thing. Obviously, making new friends, getting close with the guys out here has been great. And you get to look yourself in the mirror and see what you really see what you want in life. I’m having a lot of fun being in Miami, being away from home, being a real adult I think is the cool part. It’s not like my parents are 45 minutes away like they used to be. So it’s just all about figuring it out, seeing what you can do on your own.”
A little more than two months into his first NBA season, the 22-year-old is thriving with the Heat. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft this past summer, Jaquez has emerged as one of the top first-year players in the league.
After growing up in California and playing collegiately at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for four seasons, he is back in that familiar locale with the Heat in the midst of a five-game road trip against Western Conference teams.
In the game prior to the trip, Jaquez showed a national audience what he’s capable of with a career-high 31 points against the Philadelphia 76ers in a Christmas Day matchup.
He has been drawing high praise ever since arriving to the Heat, with franchise player Jimmy Butler and some Boston Celtics legends among his most ardent supporters. ESPN analyst J.J. Redick has called him one of the best rookies in the league alongside more heralded draft picks Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs (No. 1 overall in 2023) and Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft).
Jaquez is the only Heat player to appear in all 32 games of the season so far, a notable and necessary achievement considering the injuries that have befallen the team. The Heat have used 17 different players and 14 different starters in building their 19-13 record.
Jaquez is fifth on the team at 13.7 points per game while also contributing 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. Though he has started just eight games, he is fourth on the team playing more than 29 minutes per game, only behind stars Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Butler.
The Heat reportedly are holding shootaround on the UCLA campus on Monday, setting the stage for Jaquez to show his family and friends just how far he’s come since leaving home and embarking on his NBA journey.