UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. hopeful for matchup vs. North Carolina despite sprained ankle

PHILADELPHIA -- UCLA star forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. remains day-to-day with a sprained right ankle and will attempt to play in the No. 4 Bruins' Sweet 16 game against No. 8 North Carolina on Friday.

In the open practice period available for the media to view Thursday, Jaquez appeared to move without any discomfort. He ran, backpedaled and shuffled through warm-ups, moving seamlessly through the drills. UCLA coach Mick Cronin had said Jaquez had done only some light shooting entering Thursday.

"He's going to want to try and play," Cronin said. "The question is, 'Can he be effective?'"

Jaquez's ankle looms as perhaps the biggest storyline heading into the matchup between two of college basketball's most iconic programs. Jaquez is UCLA's second-leading scorer at 14.0 points per game and is one of the Bruins' most indispensable players, a paragon of grit and toughness who has defined Cronin's tenure.

In UCLA's past eight games, Jaquez has averaged 20.5 points as the Bruins have gone 7-1. Cronin said that stretch coincided with Jaquez being able to practice again, which led to him getting his rhythm and dominating on the floor.

"It's obviously unfortunate that Jaime is dealing with this," Cronin said. "I'll tell you if anyone can deal with it, it's him. He's the epitome of physical and mental toughness."

Jaquez injured his ankle with 6:58 remaining in the second half of UCLA's victory over Saint Mary's in the second round. He iced it on the bench with his sneaker off and didn't return. Cronin deemed his status as day-to-day throughout the week.

"It's been frustrating for sure," Jaquez said. "It's just something we have to persevere through and something I have to go through. Everyone has to go through something during the season, and this is what happened to me. We're just fighting through it every day."

Jaquez has had ankle issues all season, so many that Cronin has joked that he couldn't count them. Cronin said earlier in the week that he didn't know ankles could be sprained so much.

Jaquez also injured the right ankle against Stanford on Jan. 29, exiting the game after playing just seven minutes and attempting two shots. He missed UCLA's game against Oregon State on Jan. 15 with a left ankle injury. In February, Jaquez began wearing braces on both ankles.

"It's been a journey," Jaquez said. "A long one. It's something that all players have to deal with when you get to this game, especially this time of year, you're not 100 percent."