JaQuori McLaughlin, described by his coach as UCSB’s most selfless basketball player, received one of the game’s highest honors on Tuesday.
The senior guard became only the ninth Gaucho in school history to receive All-America recognition when the Associated Press named him to its honorable mention list.
“He has unbelievable vision and he’s an unbelievable decision-maker,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “It’s amazing when your best player is your most unselfish player, it resonates around your entire team.
“It’s the real reason that we’ve been successful on offense this year.”
Tommy Guerrero became UCSB’s first NCAA All-American after leading the Gauchos to the NAIA Final Four in 1941. Brian Shaw received All-America honorable mention in both 1987 and 1988, while Carrick DeHart and Eric McArthur both received the honor in 1990.
Others to receive All-America honorable mention were Lucius Davis in 1992, Alex Harris, in 2008, Orlando Johnson in both 2010 and 2011, and Alan Williams in 2014.
McLaughlin has led the Gauchos (22-4) to only their sixth NCAA Division 1 Tournament berth. They received a No. 12 seed and will play 19th-ranked Creighton (20-8), a No. 5 seed, on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PDT on the Unity Court at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Arena.
The 6-foot-4 playmaker was named Big West Conference Player of the Year and won MVP honors at the league tournament after guiding UCSB to only its fourth tournament title in school history.
“He’s the best player in our league, the player of the year, and he’s just gotten so much better,” Pasternack said. “I think he’s an NBA player. On the biggest stage, with the highest stakes, he came through.”
McLaughlin’s acceptance of the player of the year award typified his approach as a team co-captain.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches for believing in me and supporting me the whole year,” he said. “I would never be able to do it without them. It’s really a team award for us.”
McLaughlin ranked among the Big West leaders in both scoring (16.2 points per game) and assists (5.2). His shooting percentages of 48.9% overall, 40.4% from the three-point line, and 84.2% from the free-throw line also ranked high in the league.
His assist average ranks 42nd in the NCAA while his assist-to-turnover ratio (129-to-49) is 25th-best nationally. UCSB also ranks among the top teams in the country for assists-to-field goals scored.
“It’s the real reason that we’ve been successful on offense this year, and that’s all because our best player is so unselfish,” Pasternack said. “Everybody becomes unselfish because of him.”
McLaughlin has been an iron man for the Gauchos, averaging 32 minutes per game. He played 39 of Saturday’s 40-minute game against UC Irvine and still scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, making 5-of-7 shots including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
“It’s the conditioning work and just putting in extra work hourly,” he said. “I don’t get tired. It’s just being prepared to play the whole game.”
Pasternack said McLaughlin fit his profile of the ideal transfer when he left Oregon State to come to UCSB as a sophomore in the 2018-19 season.
“First of all, they are somebody with a chip on their shoulder — they didn’t get the opportunity that maybe they wanted somewhere else,” he said. “They have to love the game and be self-motivated.
“They’re trying to be a pro, because then they’re self-motivated to just get better and better. JaQuori McLaughlin is a great example of that.”