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Women’s Basketball Player of the Year: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins, again

Perhaps the bow tie possesses magical powers, sitting quietly on Juju Watkins’ head like a divine beacon as she steps back for another jumper.

Diana Taurasi was the first Southern California star to popularize the style, recalled Watkins’ trainer Alicia Komaki, so famous that it spawned fan pages. Watkins has taken it to a new level: hair pulled back almost into a regal headdress as he speaks. It’s been his trademark style throughout a dazzling high school career, first at LA Windward, then at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The key, he proclaims himself, to every game.

“Look cute,” Watkins said, “as long as your hair isn’t in your face.”

It is the way to go. So he’ll promote the bun to anyone who comes by. With a catch.

“My bun, I don’t think anyone can exactly replicate that,” Watkins said, smiling.

She’s one of a kind, through and through, and the basketball world has witnessed that in two historic seasons at Sierra Canyon. For the third time since her freshman year at Windward, Watkins has been selected as The Times Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.

It seemed unlikely that USC’s commitment could take her game to a higher level after a state championship run last year, and yet she became a more efficient scorer and improved ball handling in her last game. year, averaging 27.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists to be named Gatorade’s National Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. She scored 60 points during a January 31 night game and led Sierra Canyon to a Southern Section Open Division title before the team fell in the regional playoffs to Etiwanda.

“She is one of the best high school basketball players in the country to ever play this game,” Komaki said. “I mean, there’s just no question about it.”

Watkins never thought she would take basketball this far, yet she has built a different platform than few high schoolers in history: organic, just a girl coming out of Watts, people taking notice simply because her game is special. .

“It was really exciting to see that that can happen to a female athlete,” Komaki said. “That’s what went off in my mind: wow, this is happening to an athlete. Period.”

The scary thing, Komaki said, is that Watkins hasn’t lived up to his potential.

“The name Juju is synonymous with greatness,” Komaki said, “in all respects.”