Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins gives USC show at Galen Center
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The time, Lindsay Gottlieb mentioned, was now.
With the disclosing of a poster, one teary-eyed Chatsworth Sierra Canyon senior and a recruitment announcement that might form the way forward for USC women’s basketball, a sudden sense of urgency descended on Galen Middle.
The Trojans coach “cried like a child” when she discovered the highest recruit within the nation was staying house.
Juju Watkins was coming. And it modified all the things.
“We’re not ready,” Gottlieb mentioned, “to make this constructing thrilling.”
Maya Moore. Diana Taurasi. Watkins, the 6-foot-2 Sierra Canyon senior, conjures recollections of WNBA greats for the USC teaching employees. And, parked on the Galen Middle baseline for Sierra Canyon’s 64-55 win over San Diego’s La Jolla Nation Day on Saturday evening, Gottlieb and assistant Beth Burns had an opportunity to see their program’s future develop earlier than their very eyes: the stop-and-pop jumpers, the unrelenting motor in transition, the third-quarter putback of her personal missed layup to place Sierra Canyon forward by 10.
“I’m totally different, yeah I’m totally different,” 2 Chainz’s “I’m Totally different” blared over the audio system after that Watkins putback.
“Yearly, there’s a finest participant,” Burns mentioned earlier within the afternoon, sitting subsequent to Gottlieb. “Yearly, there’s not a Juju.”
Watkins scored 30 factors and grabbed 18 rebounds within the LeBron James-sponsored Chosen 1’s Invitational to maintain the Torreys at bay, taking a whopping 28 pictures. La Jolla Nation Day threw all the things it had in its utility belt at Watkins, sending a number of our bodies at her in transition, just for her to choose herself up, mud herself off and nail jumper after jumper off a pick-and-roll.
“There was no roll,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki laughed in a postgame information convention. “Only a decide.”
Watkins, her mother and father mentioned, didn’t know which faculty she was committing to till two weeks earlier than her announcement in mid-November. It might’ve been straightforward for her to decide to South Carolina, to a different top-ranked program, Gottlieb mentioned. As an alternative, the child who grew up in Watts and has spoken tearfully of her “L.A. legacy,” picked USC, a program that went 12-16 final season and hasn’t completed atop its convention in 20 years.
It took “braveness,” Gottlieb mentioned, to step out of the norm. To wish to construct a legacy from the bottom up. To be the rose — in a saying the USC coach rapidly realized is a favourite of Watkins’ — that grew from the concrete.
“I feel it’s an enormous duty that all of us really feel … she ought to make L.A. and USC ladies’s basketball the place to be,” mentioned Gottlieb, who captained an 11-3 USC workforce this season.
Watkins mentioned after the sport the evening solely made her extra snug in her determination. There, sitting courtside, was USC’s Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and incoming quarterback Malachi Nelson. There, within the stands, was a gaggle of followers, every of whom held up items of a “We [Heart] Juju” signal. There was a constructing electrified, a Galen Middle that roared “Ooooh!” after Watkins’ third-quarter spin transfer to go away a defender within the mud.
“I haven’t been this excited for a sport in a protracted, very long time … I needed to remind myself, that is nonetheless enterprise, it is advisable to loosen up,” a beaming Watkins mentioned afterward.
Significantly essential enterprise. As a result of La Jolla Nation Day was the hardest workforce the Trailblazers had confronted but in a tougher-than-ever Sierra Canyon schedule, level guard and Arizona commit Jada Williams scoring 19 factors with quite a lot of screaming fist-pumps after enormous threes.
And Watkins appeared to drive pictures early, searching jumpers in opposition to a Torreys protection using the size of Breya Cunningham, an Arizona commit whom Komaki referred to as the “finest middle within the nation.” On strikes, Watkins acknowledged after the sport, she’d typically overlook there was a 6-foot-4 participant lurking within the paint. And thru simply six minutes, she was dripping with sweat.
Maybe the least-discussed a part of Watkins’ sport, her tenacity, stood out Saturday evening. She scrapped like a go-to-scorer’s model of Patrick Beverley, following her personal pictures, searching contact.
MacKenly Randolph fought off Cunningham with 11 factors and 9 rebounds down low, whereas freshman middle Emilia Krstevski held her personal with 10 factors and eight boards.
It was simply sufficient to push Sierra Canyon to a sterling 16-0.
After the sport, Watkins lamented she didn’t have an opportunity to say hello to Gottlieb. Komaki, although, did.
“She mentioned,” Komaki grinned, “‘Juju seems to be good right here.’”
Different standouts: Santa Ana Mater Dei junior Jennessa Cotton dominated within the publish to guide the Monarchs to a 62-30 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary of Ohio, posting a double-double with 13 rebounds and 13 factors. The Monarchs boys’ sport in opposition to the Preventing Irish was considerably nearer, however the youth motion eked out a 63-61 win on the again of freshman Luke Barnett, who buried 5 threes en path to 21 factors.