Los Angeles (AP) – A pair of five-star inductees are sure to impress UCLA this season. However, in an age of freshmen burning, two seniors can be invaluable to the Bruins’ eighth-ranked NCAA title hopes.
Jaime Jaques Jr. and Tiger Campbell are back for their fourth season at Westwood, two battle-tested veterans who arrived at the same time as coach Mick Cronin to rebuild a program that holds a record 11 national championships.
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the NCAA tournament in 2020, when the Bruins were riding a hotline in March. Jackies and Campbell helped them feature in the Final Four in 2021. UCLA lost to North Carolina by seven points in the regional semifinals last season.
The Bruins were 27-8 and finished second in the Pac-12 at 15-5 last season. They defended their home well, winning 14 of 15 matches.
Cronin is 68-30 entering his fourth season and features the top five recruits, goalkeeper Amari Bailey and striker Adam Bona.
UCLA opened the season at home against Sacramento State on November 7. The Bruins play five of the Pauley Pavilion’s first seven games in the first month of the season. They traveled to Las Vegas for two games before playing their first PAC 12 game at Stanford on December 1.
The Bruins’ non-conference schedule includes games in Maryland on December 14 and against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden in New York on December 17.
Jackies and Campbell cement one of the best backyards in the country despite losing Johnny Guzhang and Jules Bernard. Jaquez is back to full strength after ankle injuries late in the season slowed him down. Campbell finished in the top four in the Pac-12 in assists in each of his first three seasons and his shot went up from 3 points to 41% as a junior. Year five senior David Singleton is also a threat from depth, having fired 45% last season. Jaylen Clark has shown what he can do as a rookie, averaging 14.8 points over five extended games in the squad. They are joined by Bayley, the highest-rated Bruins since the Lonzo Ball in 2016. Will finally make his Westwood debut after an ACL rupture that left him sidelined last season.
The departure of Cody Riley and Miles Johnson leaves the Bruins in an unproven front yard. As a result, Buna from Nigeria joined the starting course. McDonald’s has been an all-American in his middle school in Napa, California, and has international playing experience. Mac Etienne returns after missing the entirety of last season with an ACL injury, having shown promise late in the 2020-21 season. Senior Kenneth Noba gives the Bruins a third player at 6-foot-10.
Another fresh to watch
The Bruins added Italian striker Abramo Kanka, who played in the Russian Premier League. Guard Dylan Andrews grew up in Los Angeles and is ranked in the top ten by some recruitment services. Walking favorite Evan Mangekian is another Los Angeles native who played at Sierra Canyon High, alongside current Bruins teammate Bailey and Bronny James, son of Lakers star LeBron James. Jack Seidler, who was also a walking favorite, was a two-time all-conference pick at Marlboro (New Jersey) High, where he ended his career as a scoring leader.
Beer and wine will be shown to the public for the first time at Pauley Pavilion this season. Fans 21 and older can purchase two drinks per transaction up to the 10-minute mark of the second half. Since the arena was renovated 10 years ago, alcohol has only been available to members of the Sports Wooden Box in a private room.
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