Jaime Jaquez Jr. details why he wanted to ‘get away’ from Los Angeles: ‘I was very excited to go to Miami’

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat rookie forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. explained the importance of getting away from Los Angeles.

“I wanted to get away,” Jaquez said. “I think for myself I thought it was important for me to be able to go out of my comfort zone and experience something new. I didn’t want to be a guy that said, ‘Oh, I just stayed in Southern California all my life.’”

The Heat rookie has thrived in his first season in Miami after spending four seasons playing for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Jaquez starred at UCLA, averaging 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Bruins in his final collegiate season.

Those numbers – and Jaquez’s play style – were major reasons why the Heat took him in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra recently discussed the differences of four-year collegiate players and how their game translates to the NBA.

Jaquez, who is now playing for one the best teams in the NBA, believes that Miami is much different than Los Angeles.

“I wanted to go live in a different, new place,” Jaquez, 22, continued. “And that’s why I was very excited to go to Miami. It was new. Everyone compares it [to Los Angeles], but I think it’s very, very different.”

The rookie forward has carved out a major role in Spoelstra’s rotation in his first season, averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He’s also shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Even though the Heat selected Nikola Jovic in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, Jaquez has seen much more playing time in the 2023-24 season than Jovic. It just goes to show how highly Miami thinks of Jaquez, and he’s proven the franchise’s decision to draft him right so far this season with his play.

With the Heat losing Max Strus and Gabe Vincent this past offseason, Jaquez has run with the opportunity to be a part of the rotation this season.

Since he’s a California kid, the Heat forward has a bit of a homecoming for Miami’s game on Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s a long stretch and period of time where I get to see people I haven’t seen in a very long time,” Jaquez said. “Because since the summer, I don’t even know how long since I’ve been back. But it’s been a while, and I’m very excited to get back.”

The rookie will look to have a big performance to help the Heat pick up another win as they try to earn a top seed in the Eastern Conference this season.

Jaquez has shown he can step up to the challenge after scoring 31 points in the team’s win on Christmas Day. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against the Clippers and their star wings (Paul George and Kawhi Leonard) on Monday.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.