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Home » «A Love Note to UCLA Basketball»

«A Love Note to UCLA Basketball»

24 March 2023, Friday

Dear UCLA Basketball,
I care deeply for you, and though the outcome of the season wasn't what we had hoped for, my heart remains strong. There were certainly aspects of the season that left me disappointed, but I still carry a full heart.

As a devoted supporter of the sports world, your teams are the one thing that you cheer most for; however, it can make the excitement of the game far greater when the players and teams you cheer for showcase an attitude you can resonate with. Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, and David Singleton are three guys of this sort, so it can be difficult to think of saying goodbye to them without having a heavy heart.

David Singleton is an extraordinary example of the spirit of sports. Despite lacking NBA-level athleticism, he has worked hard to develop into an exceptional defender and shooter under the rigorous expectations of his coach, Mick Cronin. Singleton was also the natural leader of his team, with no prior expectation. Upon graduating after last season, he elected to return for another year to attempt to bring a national championship home. His commitment to the team and sportsmanship displays just how powerful the spirit of sports can be.

While some may believe that Jaquez is the spirit animal for Cronin in his first four years at UCLA, it is actually Tyger Campbell that has been the extension of himself on the court. The coaching staff has seen how quickly Campbell is able to finish sentences when Cronin starts to give an instruction, often leading to successful sets. Cronin has even commented on Campbell's effort, saying: “You can’t get any more out of his body and his God-given things that he can’t change. He totally maxes out.” This is something to strive for, making the best of the assets given to us.

Jaime Jaquez is the embodiment of what Coach Cronin's program is all about: both physical and mental toughness and competitiveness. The 6-6 power forward is among the very best players in the nation, and he proves that it is possible to succeed with what you have. For Jaquez, returning for his senior season at UCLA was the right thing to do since he wanted to spend one year in school with his little sister Gabriela.

As supporters, it can be hard to recognize what these men have sacrificed. Jaquez played for 39 minutes against Gonzaga, while Singleton and Campbell only reached 38. This is equivalent to running a marathon whilst playing basketball. Tragically, Campbell suffered an ACL tear in the beginning of his career, which took him a year to rebound from. Singleton took half a year to recover from a foot injury and then possibly another year to acquire his body back in optimal condition. In the NCAA Tournament last year, Jaquez hobbled on two very poor ankles.

We've seen it all from Coach Mick Cronin. He's been a self-torturer since the beginning and you can see it in his players.
But he's trying to find some balance. Taking a step back and noticing the little things. He's learned to be more composed on the sidelines and leave the tension to the players. To protect his own mental and physical health. You can tell he's still as competitive as ever, but he's trying to reign it in and make adjustments. Let's hope this change of pace helps the team, and Coach Cronin himself.

We can certainly question certain aspects of UCLA basketball, such as the personnel usage and the 11 minutes without a basket. But, at the end of the day, we love and support the program, the coaching and the players. There is no doubt that the Bruins have our enthusiasm and backing. Even if there are decisions we don't always agree with, we still recognize the commitment it takes to be a part of this team.

UCLA was without two significant starters in their tournament game against Gonzaga; the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jaylen Clark, and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Adem Bona. Had they been present, it is possible they might have been able to reduce the impressive 36-point performance of a Gonzaga player. It is important to remember this context when viewing the game, and discussing it in any form of media.

This UCLA team had a remarkable opportunity to capture a national championship despite missing two starters. This is akin to saying a college football team had a realistic shot at capturing a national championship minus eight key players- a feat that is honestly implausible. The mere fact that Head Coach Mick Cronin was able to keep this team competitive without the presence of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Cody Riley speaks volumes about the overall coaching in the UCLA camp.
One can't help but ponder the possibilities if UCLA had had Clark and Bona in their lineup. With the NCAA Tournament now providing an opportunity to gauge the competition, it's no wonder that many believe UCLA would have been the top contenders for the championship.

The UCLA program has instilled hope in its fans, and that is what makes this game so heartbreaking. Just when it looked like Amari Bailey had iced the game with his three-pointer in the final seconds, that hope quickly disappeared. The feelings of disappointment and sadness from the loss are indelible, but it is an all-too-familiar feeling for the UCLA faithful. Despite this, the team has had a remarkable season overall, with 31 wins, and that gives us plenty to be hopeful for in the future. Even in the face of adversity, hope is what continues to drive us forward.

You keep waiting for the darkness to pass, for your anguish to cease, but all the time that passes is time you could have used differently. It's time to confront your trepidation, to acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety that has been a part of you for so long. You have been living in darkness, but now it's time to open your eyes and see what lies ahead of you. See it.

It can be heartbreaking to accept the fact that we won't be seeing this particular group of UCLA basketball players taking the court together anymore. Despite the obstacles that faced them, Jaquez, Campbell, Singleton and the Nwuba brothers showed us what it means to be warriors and competed to the best of their ability. This season won't just be remembered for the team's Sweet 16 appearance but for the hope and excitement these players brought to the sport. Their resilience and tenacity was something to admire and it's what will make this 2022-2023 season special to many. Even though we may be feeling heartache, it's great to have been given hope again. Thanks, UCLA basketball.
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