Girls’ basketball player of the year: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins, again
Perhaps the bun possesses magical powers, sitting calmly atop 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, Watkins’ coach Alicia Komaki remembered, so famous it spawned fan pages. Watkins has taken it to a new level — hair bundled almost in a regal headdress as she takes the floor. It’s been her signature style throughout a dazzling high school career, first at L.A. Windward, then Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The key, she proclaims, to every game.
“Look cute,” Watkins said, “while your hair’s not in your face.”
It’s the way to go. So she’ll promote the bun to anyone who comes along. With a catch.
“My bun, I don’t think anybody can really replicate that exactly,” Watkins said, grinning.
She is one of one, through and through, and the basketball world has witnessed it in two historic seasons at Sierra Canyon. For the third time since her freshman season at Windward, Watkins has been selected The Times’ girls’ basketball player of the year.
It seemed unlikely that the USC commit 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 ballhandler as a senior, averaging 27.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists to be chosen the Gatorade national girls’ basketball player of the year. She scored 60 points during a Jan. 31 senior-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’d take basketball this far, yet she has built a platform unlike few high schoolers in history — organic, just a kid coming out of Watts, people taking notice simply because her game is special.
“It was just really exciting to see that that can happen to a female athlete,” Komaki said. “That’s what triggered in my mind — wow, this is happening to a female athlete. Period.”
The scary thing, Komaki said, is that Watkins hasn’t reached her potential.
“Juju’s name is synonymous with greatness,” Komaki said, “in every aspect.”