Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins

Perhaps the bun has magical powers, sitting quietly on Juju Watkins’ head like a divine beacon as she retreats for another jumper.

Diana Taurasi was the first Southern California star to popularize the style, recalled Watkins coach Alicia Komaki, so famous it spawned fan pages. Watkins took it to the next level – her hair is pulled back into an almost regal headdress when she takes the floor. It was her signature style throughout her brilliant high school career, first at LA Windward and then at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The key, she says, is to every game.

“Look cute,” Watkins said, “until your hair falls in your face.”

This is the way. So she will advertise the muffin to everyone who comes. With a catch.

“My bun, I don’t think anyone can accurately replicate this,” Watkins said, grinning.

She is one of a kind, through and through, and the basketball world has witnessed this in two historic seasons in Sierra Canyon. For the third time since her first season at Windward, Watkins was voted The Times Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.

It seemed unlikely that a USC commitment could take her game to the next level after last year’s state championship, and yet she became a more effective scorer and improved her ball game as a senior, averaging 27.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3 .6 gears. Selected as the Gatorade Girls’ National Basketball Player of the Year. In January, she scored 60 points. 31 senior games and led Sierra Canyon to the South Section Open Division title before the team lost in the Regional Playoffs to Etiwand.

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

Watkins never thought she would get this far in basketball, but she built a platform unlike few high schoolers in history – organic, just a kid who came out of Watts, people pay attention simply because her game is special.

“It was very exciting to see what could happen to an athlete,” Komaki said. “That’s what worked in my head – wow, this is happening to an athlete. Period.”

The worst part, according to Komaki, is that Watkins didn’t live up to her potential.

“The name Juju is synonymous with greatness,” Komaki said, “in every aspect.”