Girls’ basketball participant of the yr: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins

Perhaps the bun possesses magical powers, sitting calmly atop Juju Watkins’ head like a divine beacon as she steps again for an additional jumper.

Diana Taurasi was the primary Southern California star to popularize the fashion, Watkins’ coach Alicia Komaki remembered, so well-known it spawned fan pages. Watkins has taken it to a brand new stage — hair bundled nearly in a regal headdress as she takes the ground. It’s been her signature fashion all through a stunning highschool profession, first at L.A. Windward, then Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The key, she proclaims, to each recreation.

“Look cute,” Watkins mentioned, “while your hair’s not in your face.”

It’s the way in which to go. So she’ll promote the bun to anybody who comes alongside. With a catch.

“My bun, I don’t think anybody can really replicate that exactly,” Watkins mentioned, grinning.

She is one among one, via and thru, 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 chosen The Times’ women’ basketball participant of the yr.

It appeared unlikely that the USC commit may take her recreation to the next stage after a state-championship run final yr, and but she grew to become a extra environment friendly scorer and improved ballhandler as a senior, averaging 27.3 factors, 13.8 rebounds and three.6 assists to be chosen the Gatorade nationwide women’ basketball participant of the yr. She scored 60 factors throughout a Jan. 31 senior-night recreation and led Sierra Canyon to a Southern Section Open Division title earlier than the staff fell within the regional playoffs to Etiwanda.

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

Watkins by no means thought she’d take basketball this far, but she has constructed a platform in contrast to few excessive schoolers in historical past — natural, only a child popping out of Watts, individuals taking discover just because her recreation is particular.

“It was just really exciting to see that that can happen to a female athlete,” Komaki mentioned. “That’s what triggered in my mind — wow, this is happening to a female athlete. Period.”

The scary factor, Komaki mentioned, is that Watkins hasn’t reached her potential.

“Juju’s name is synonymous with greatness,” Komaki mentioned, “in every aspect.”