Top women’s hoops recruit Watkins chooses USC-EnglishHindiBlogs-News

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

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 state’s 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 and Tina Thompson.

“I didn’t want to rush the process,” Watkins said. “A lot of people in my class had already committed before me, and I was definitely taking my time. But I wanted to make sure it was 1,000 percent where I wanted to go.”

Watkins joined coach Lindsey Gottlieb’s 2022-23 recruiting class along with Malia Samuels, a 5-foot-6 guard from Seattle’s Garfield High School. Samuels is likely No. 49 in the 2023 espnW 100.

Watkins, a versatile 6-2 guard, averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.0 blocks for Sierra Canyon last season. Last summer, she started all seven games as a member of the USA Basketball women’s U17 national team and averaged a team-high 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals.

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

USC has not won back-to-back national championships since 1983 and 1984. It last won a conference title in 1994 and the conference tournament in 2014. But its list of alums is as graceful as any school’s: Cooper-Dyke, a 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 to join the WNBA, its second leading scorer of all time, and a four-time WNBA champion.

Watkins is now set to join the Trojans’ famed LA-to-USC move.

Growing up in Watts, Watkins began playing basketball at the age of 7 despite her parents’ desire to play tennis like Venus Williams and Serena Williams. Every day, she practiced 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.

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

In February 2022, she became the first high school athlete to sign with Clutch Sports Group for Nile representation. This October, Watkins finalized a zero endorsement deal with Nike along with Sierra Canyon classmate Bronnie James, Iowa point guard Kaitlin Clark, Stanford guard Haley Jones and top 2023 guard DJ Wagner.

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