JaQuori McLaughlin, a sharpshooting guard from UC Santa Barbara, could be the next in the lineage of NBA players from the Pacific Northwest.
McLaughlin, who is also a good playmaker, won Big West Conference Player of the Year and conference tournament MVP, led UCSB to the NCAA tournament in 2020-21. He averaged a solid 16.0 points, 5.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 40.8 percent on his three-pointers.
The NBA prospect recently caught up with HoopsHype to discuss where he fits in this draft class, training with Isaiah Thomas and plenty more.
Please note this interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity.
How have you spent your time since the season ended?
JaQuori McLaughlin: I am training at IMPACT in Las Vegas. It’s going really well. There are a lot of guys out here working with Joe Abunassar and getting a lot of really good work every single day. We have about two workouts per day, lifting, eating right, sleeping right, doing all of the right things on the court and off the court. It’s been huge for me. I was a good shooter coming in but he is helping me tweak a few little things, like having a stronger base when I shoot and having a higher follow-through. I’m working on my consistency, shooting the same shot every single time, so that’s the main thing. They say it looks good, so I just want to keep it the same. But I’m just practicing ball screens, pick and rolls, handoffs and coming off screens.
You won the Big West Conference Player of the Year and led UCSB to the tournament. Do you still feel underrated?
JM: Yeah, coming from the Big West, people don’t really respect that conference. That can motivate me in a lot of ways. I know I’m underrated. When I get up against players that might be rated higher than me, I can show that I am a great player and I can play at the next level. It was great going to the tournament, too, but it wasn’t just me. Credit goes to my coaches and to my teammates as well. We had a great year. Our whole team was locked in. Especially with COVID and everything, we had to be extra careful off the court. But we did a great job. It was great to have that experience with that team. It meant a lot to get to the tournament. I know we felt like we could have gone further but we had a tough loss to a great Creighton team.
Jaquori McLaughlin has flown under the radar this season, but played well for @UCSBbasketball today. 13 points, 7 rebs, 6 assists, and 1 block against Creighton.
The Big West POY had a tremendous season and is deserving of a look at the next level.
— Derek Murray (@dmurrayNBA) March 20, 2021
You shot over 40.0 percent on three-pointers. What is the history of your jump shot?
JM: I’ve always been a pretty good shooter, all the way back to high school, I’m a confident player who can shoot from anywhere on the court without any weaknesses. I don’t want teams to sit back on me when they’re guarding me. I’m able to shoot it from all three levels: beyond the arc, midrange and around the basket. That is big for me, especially when I was in college. I’m a three-point shooter but if someone runs out on you and jumps up, I want to get past them and either hit a one-dribble pull-up or get to the basket. It’s really important for a guard my size to be able to shoot the ball at a high level.
How were you able to increase your skills as a playmaker during your time in college?
JM: I’ve always loved players like Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson. I watch highlights of guys like that and Chris Paul or Deron Williams. When I watch Stephen Curry, I try to work on moving without the ball as a guard who can play off-ball. Guys on defense don’t like to chase guys around a lot so I think it’s a great skill to have. I’m always watching game film and working with my coaches at UC Santa Barbara, working out of the pick and roll to be able to read things at a different level. That comes from knowing tendencies about what is going to happen when the defense does certain things and where the ball should go when you have it in your hands. You have to find the open man, hit him right away, don’t play any games, just get it to him right away.
You have some solid defensive playmaking skills as well. What is your mentality there?
JM: It is so important to lock in on the defensive end. I got a lot of steals this year. I wanted to set the tone for our team. I think that was big for the guards on our team, just locking in and playing great on-ball defense and great help side defense. I think a big thing I did well was just constant communication. I’m able to talk when I’m on the floor at all times.
Another underrated guard – JaQuori McLaughlin. Great D on this play pic.twitter.com/HyW4fN28ww
— mike gribanov (@mikegrib8) April 8, 2021
What is your pitch to convince an NBA team to add you to their roster next season?
JM: First off, my maturity. I bring a lot to the locker room as a person on and off the court. I also am really proud of my shooting ability and I am able to play both on and off the ball. I also have a strong ability as a passer. I can be a point guard in the league because I can pass and play on and off the ball while also hitting my open shots. I can surprise a lot of teams with my athletic ability. People don’t really know how athletic I am. So when I get into workouts, I feel like I will definitely be able to show that and show a lot of teams what I can do, especially with my vertical and my agility. I play at my own pace and some people might take that as me being slow. But if someone is in front of me, they will know I’m not slow. I don’t let people speed me up.
Tell me a little bit more about the person that an NBA team is getting from you off the floor.
JM: They are getting someone who is all about basketball. I don’t go out to parties. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do any of that stuff. I just go to the gym every single day and get my work in and stay focused on basketball. That is my main priority. That is the only thing I want to do. I don’t really have any other hobbies except for basketball and hanging out with my family.
I know you are from Tacoma, Washington. What is your relationship with the basketball community in the Pacific Northwest?
JM: I’ve watched guys like Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas since they were in high school and college. They paved the way for guys like me. It’s awesome to see the success they have had at every level. As a young guy from the same area, I wanted to do the same things, and they motivated me to do that. I have a good relationship with Abdul Gaddy and I’ve talked to Avery Bradley a few times. I worked out with Isaiah Thomas last summer and that was really big for me. I got to see how a pro works. He gave me some pointers on things to do throughout my season that really helped me. I put the work in every single day and I know the results will show. Tacoma, the 253, is a really tight-knit community. My guy Malachi Flynn was drafted last year. I have played with him since fourth grade. It would be great to join him out there.
JaQuori McLaughlin and Malachi Flynn are now matched up. Here's a look at them playing youth ball in Tacoma (photo via Jason McLaughlin). pic.twitter.com/A3vhj36P5J
— Danny Moran (@DannyJMoran) January 5, 2017