Women’s Basketball’s No. 1 Pick Juju Watkins Commits to USC

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Women’s basketball’s No. 1 recruit Juju Watkins, who grew up 10 miles from the USC campus, signed her national letter of intent Tuesday with the Trojans.

Watkins, who chose USC over finalists South Carolina and Stanford, is a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball, the defending California state champion at Sierra Canyon High School, and the current Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

The 17-year-old, who grew up in Watts, is in line to join a list of USC basketball legends who grew up in the Los Angeles area, including Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Cheryl Miller, lisa leslie Y tina thompson.

“I didn’t want to rush this process,” Watkins said. “A lot of people in my class had already committed before me, and I was definitely taking my time. But I want to make sure I was 1000 percent where I wanted to go.”

Watkins joins Malia Samuels, a 5-foot-6 guard from Seattle’s Garfield High School, in coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s 2022-23 recruiting class. Samuels is the No. 49 prospect on the 2023 espnW 100.

A versatile 6-2 point guard, Watkins averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.0 blocks last season for Sierra Canyon en route to the state title. Last summer, she started all seven games as a member of the USA Basketball Under-17 Women’s National Team and averaged 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals, the maximum of the team.

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Watkins becomes the third top 10 recruit to sign with USC since espnW began its national ranking in 2007, joining No. 7 Jordan Adams in 2012 and No. 8 aaliyah gayles in 2022.

USC hasn’t won a national championship since they were back-to-back in 1983 and 1984. The last time it won a conference title was in 1994 and the conference tournament in 2014. But its alumni roster is as decorated as any school: Cooper-Dyke, two-time NCAA champion, four-time WNBA champion, and former USC coach; Miller, a two-time NCAA champion, three-time Naismith Player of the Year and the program’s all-time leading scorer; Leslie, a Naismith Award winner, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and two-time WNBA champion; and Thompson, the first college player drafted into the WNBA, its second all-time leading scorer, and a four-time WNBA champion.

Watkins is now set to join the legendary LA Trojans starting five at USC.

Growing up in Watts, Watkins began playing basketball at the age of 7 despite his parents’ desire that he play tennis as a venus williams Y Serena Williams. Every day, she would practice with her parents, Sari and Robert, in the backyard or at the Watts Gym named after her great-grandfather, Ted Watkins Sr., a civil rights activist in the 1960s. .

Prior to her junior year of high school, Watkins transferred from Windward in Los Angeles to Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California, joining coach Alicia Komaki’s championship team. At Sierra Canyon, Watkins quickly found success and fame. Despite the school boasting famous last names like James and Kardashian, Watkins became her own celebrity and helped fill the stands during the 2021-22 girls’ basketball season.

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In February 2022, she became the first high school athlete to sign with Klutch Sports Group for NIL representation. This October, Watkins finalized an NIL endorsement deal with Nike, along with her Sierra Canyon classmate, Iowa point guard Bronny James. caitlin-clarkstanford guard haley jones and the best guard of 2023, DJ Wagner.

“Juju has been in the national spotlight since seventh grade,” Komaki said. “When she first came to Sierra Canyon, she knew she carried a name with her and she understood it. She understood her responsibility to the game because of who she is. And when she plays in college, she will do the same. The name on the front will be just as important as the name on the back.”