Sierra Canyon senior guard Judea “Juju” Watkins was named the 2023 Naismith Girls High School Player of the Year on Friday. This is the highest honor a high school basketball player can receive.
This award is given to her as the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers girls basketball team is striving for what could be their second consecutive CIF State Championship title. As of Monday, the Trailblazers have a perfect 31-0 overall record.
The Watts native is the second female Naismith High School trophy winner who signed to play for USC; the first was Hall of Famer and Morningside alum Lisa Leslie, who earned the honor in 1990.
During this season, Watkins has averaged 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.3 steals. On her senior night game against the Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) Knights, Watkins dropped 60 points. The effort came a few days after she broke a Sierra Canyon record by scoring 45 points in one game.
Her efforts have helped make the Trailblazers the top team in the nation.
In January, Watkins became the first girls’ player in Sierra Canyon history to become a McDonald’s All-American. The McDonald’s All America Game will air on ESPN2 on March 28 at 6:30P.M. EST.
On April 8, Watkins will compete in the 2023 USA Women’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon.
Watkins has been a top-ranked player of the 2023 class since before she started high school. She has earned many accolades and honors throughout her years at the Windward School and Sierra Canyon.
Watkins became the Gatorade California Girls Basketball Player of the Year during the 2021-2022 season. That season, she was averaging 24.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while maintaining a 3.67 GPA. Watkins was also named the 2022 MaxPreps National Player of the Year and she was the Los Angeles Times Player of the Year in 2020 and 2022.
Not only did Watkins excel in high school competition but she also made waves in the international circuit with Team USA. She was a member of the USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team and competed in the FIBA U17 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.
While averaging a team-high of 13.1 points and leading the team in free throws and three-pointers made, Watkins helped the U17 national team go undefeated and win gold. During their quarterfinals game against Japan, she scored 25 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Because of her efforts, Watkins would earn FIBA U17 World Cup MVP honors.
The Sierra Canyon standout was also on the 2021 USA Basketball U16 National Team, helping them win gold at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Léon, Mexico. She paced the team with 20 points and 5.2 steals per game and ultimately became MVP.
In their gold medal match against Canada, Watkins scored 28 points, three rebounds, and five steals.
In February 2022, Watkins became the first high school athlete to sign a NIL representation deal with Klutch Sports. That October, she signed a deal with Nike and was featured in a commercial alongside actor Jason Momoa, Lakers star LeBron James and his sons: Bronny and Bryce.
Watkins also inked a deal with Lids, allowing her to create her own hat embroidery designs. One of her designs feature the phrase “Love Watts” in honor of her hometown, and another has the phrase “The Rose that Blossomed from concrete” which is a nod to her favorite quote from Tupac Shakur.
Signing the deal with Klutch Sports not only highlights Watkin’s talents on the court but also helps achieve her goals in community building and uplift. She wants to economically empower Watts and be a frontier for women’s basketball.
Watkins’ aspirations echo that of her great-grandfather, union and Civil Rights activist Ted Watkins. Ted created the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) which provided jobs and social services after the 1965 Watts Uprising. It would become one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the nation. In her youth, Watkins used to volunteer at the WLCAC offices.
Watkins inherited her basketball abilities from her parents, Sari and Robert Watkins, both of whom played in high school. At the age of 10, Watkins began playing travel ball. She urged her parents to train her in the sport and they created a training plan, doing what they could to help her improve.
In November, Watkins signed her national letter of intent to USC.