The Times' girls' basketball player of the year: Juju Watkins

Rarely in high school girls in Southern California, there was a 14-year-old freshman with the skills and talent of Juju Watkins.

“She is phenomenal,” said her coach Vanessa Nygaard. Her potential is unknown. Combined with the incredible skills she has, it is exciting for us, for her and women’s basketball. “

Watkins averaged 21 points and nine rebounds for Los Angeles Windward, which lost to Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Southern Section Open Division championship game and La Jolla Country Day in the Southern California regional final. Every time, Watkins did her best to inspire teammates.

Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said he believes Watkins will be an American Olympian after facing her in The Pyramid when she scored 28 points.

Because of the impact she has made and her ability to consistently perform at a high level in matches against top opponents, Watkins has been selected as The Times’ basketball player for girls of the year.

She is 6 feet and is still growing. She is from the same school that produced McDonald’s All-Americans Jordin Canada and Charisma Osborne. Each sign indicates that Watkins is destined for the same feat.

“I think I was blessed with the ability,” said Watkins.

Nygaard did not make Watkins a primary part of Windward’s attack to start the season. That quickly changed when she realized how calm, cool and consistent Watkins could be in her freshman year of high school basketball.

“She has blood from the greatest moment,” said Nygaard. “The times we had to run, she’s ready and she wants the ball in her hand and makes great plays. She’s very strong.”

Nygaard remembers a match in which Watkins came to her and complained about the defense, saying, “Coach, they are pinching me.”

“I said,” Yes, they are. “Face shield, box-and-one, is the ultimate compliment,” said Nygaard. “People went out of their way to stop her – push her, hold her, protect her – and since she was fourteen, she coped well.”

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