Miami Heat's Jaime Jáquez Jr.
Jaime Jáquez Jr. Named KIA Eastern Conference Rookie Of The Month Miami Heat

ALABAMA – As basketball has expanded its popularity around the globe, the NBA has also gotten more diverse. Nowadays, some of the biggest names in the best basketball league in the world are international players.

During last season's opening night, a total of 120 international players from 41 different countries were included on opening-night rosters, marking the 9th straight year with at least 100 such players in the NBA.

One of the new "international" players that have garnered the most attention so far this season has been Miami Heat's Jaime Jaquez Jr., a Mexican American guard that was selected 18th overall during this year's NBA Draft.

That night, he had already made history, as he became the only player of Mexican descent to be drafted in the 1st round and just the second one, after Gustavo Ayón (2nd round). When he made his NBA debut against the Detroit Pistons, he became just the sixth Mexican American to ever play in the league.

A rookie out of UCLA where he spent four years and helped the Bruins reach the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons there. During the 2020-21 campaign, he was one of the leaders of UCLA's unexpected Final Four run. The 11-seeded Bruins took 1-seed Gonzaga to overtime during their 2021 Final Four matchup, but Jalen Suggs had the last word with his incredible buzzer-beater to send Gonzaga to the championship game.

A well-seasoned rookie already, Jaquez has proven his worth to head coach Erik Spoelstra who, during a post-game interview, declared that he fits the team's work ethic and is a full believer in the rookie's quality. "He's earned the trust of the staff but most importantly he has earned his teammates' trust...he is still learning things but doesn't tend to make the same mistake twice", said Spoelstra after a Heat win over the Charlotte Hornets earlier this season.

Jaquez Jr. has been one of Miami's most important players this season, being the only one to have played in all 22 games so far. He is trusted by his teammates and coaching staff and, as a reward, has played the most minutes by a rookie in the 4th quarter this season (195).

Jaquez Jr. ranks in the top 5 among rookies in nine individual categories, including points per game, total assists and three pointers made.

Although he only has 22 games of experience in the NBA, he has already set records for a player of Mexican descent in the history of the league. His 22 points on Nov. 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers set a record of most points in a game by a player of Mexican descent. He broke his own record eight days later, scoring 24 points against the Indiana Pacers.

Jaquez Jr. is averaging 12.2 PPG in 27 MPG so far this season, more than double of Gustavo Ayón's numbers during his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets in 2011-12 (5.9 PPG). In fact, none of the previous 5 players with Mexican descent were able to average double figures in their first season in the league. Compared to his rookie counterparts, only Victor Wembanyama (380), Chet Holmgren (359) and Pelicans guard Jordan Hawkins (274) have scored more points this season.

If his form continues, he could be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year as well as being included into the All-Rookie team. He has already been named Rookie of the Month this season and, during the league's latest Rookie Ladder, Miami's guard cracked into the top 5 for the first time this year.

Across the years, players of Latin American descent have shined during their rookie seasons. Players such as Manu Ginóbili, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Karl-Anthony Towns have all received All-Rookie honors. Towns is the only player of Latino descent to win Rookie of the Year, thanks to his 18.3 PPG and 10.5 RPG during the 2015-16 season.

The last Latino player to be included into an All-Rookie team is Dominican Christ Duarte, who got into the 2nd team thanks to a successful 2021-22 season with the Indiana Pacers, ending a drought of 5 seasons without any Latino representation (KAT's 2015-16 ROY season).

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