Jaquez kicked off the interview by delving into her childhood and reflecting on her innate athletic prowess and early successes across various team sports. As high school approached, however, her focus crystallized on the sports she was most passionate about, softball and basketball. Like many California students, UCLA was Jaquez’s dream school — her brother, Jaime Jaquez, had already begun his basketball career there — and she was determined to play a sport there. Jaquez intentionally noted that at certain points in her high school career, she very seriously considered the idea of playing softball at UCLA. Yet, her high school basketball team became CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) finalists, she played on a Nike EYBL Team and earned herself the title of a McDonald’s All-American. Given these extensive awards, as well as her more fervent passion for the sport, she, as we all know now, ultimately committed to the pursuit of college basketball.
When asked about her life off of the court, Jaquez outlined her great love of Southern California, from the commonly gawked-over warm weather and picturesque beaches, all the way to her favorite smoothie spot: Blenders. She even called for Blenders to be opened in Westwood — let’s make it happen!
While Jaquez and Rice have a bond so strong they seem as though they were raised together, Rice’s upbringing was quite different from Jaquez’s. 2,000 miles east, she was raised in the capital city of Washington, D.C., where the weather was gloomier. She also grew up playing all kinds of sports but settled on soccer and basketball in high school. Rice led the Sidwell Friends School girls varsity soccer team to two state championships and the girls varsity basketball team to another two, bringing her state championship total to four. Yes, you read that right. Her high school achievements include — stick with me, this is going to be a long list — Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year, Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year, and the All-Metro Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season, and boasts three Olympic gold medals.
Despite these incredible accomplishments, Rice remained humble when the interviewers discussed her success, attributing them to non-stop dedication and support from her friends and family. Even so, these incredible options earned her offers from numerous Division I schools, including UCLA. Reflecting on her decision to commit to UCLA, she noted that the reality of moving across the country was a real fear, however, she couldn’t let this distance hinder an athletic career at the institution where she would truly thrive.
During their first year as Bruins, the UCLA women’s basketball finished the season 27-10, the Pac12 seventh seed, and were knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals. So far this season, the team is undefeated at 12-0, demonstrating their great commitment to and progress in the game. Given this success, when asked about their reactions to learning that UCLA would be joining the Big 10 in the 2024-25 season, they both admitted that they initially were upset given their current Pac-12 success. Even so, they ultimately understood that this transition would lead to more fans and national publicity. They did, however, pose genuine concerns regarding travel times, as their games next season will span across the country, as opposed to solely the West Coast. All in all, they concluded that regardless of the league or location they were set in, the unity within the team and trust in the administration would lead to their success.
While, as previously cataloged, this interview was filled with enticing details of the two athletes’ experiences with their basketball journeys and the UCLA basketball program, it was their humorous, carefree banter and sister-like bond that stood out throughout the interview hour. The two chatted about their time as freshman-year roommates and each other’s quirks and inside jokes. Jaquez dubbed Rice as her own personal ESPN and Rice thanked Jaquez for introducing her to the California lifestyle. As second-year students these accomplished athletes are just getting started – catch their next home game at Pauley Pavillion!