Girls’ basketball player of the year: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins

Perhaps the bun possesses magical powers and sits steady on Juju Watkins’ head like a divine beacon as she steps back for another sweater.

Diana Taurasi was the first Southern California star to popularize the style, recalled Watkins trainer Alicia Komaki, so famous it spawned it fan pages. Watkins has taken it to a new level — hair bunched almost into a regal headdress as she speaks. It was her signature style throughout her glittering high school career, first in LA Windward, then Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. The key, she proclaims, to every game.

“Look cute,” Watkins said, “while your hair isn’t in your face.”

It is the right way. So she’ll be promoting the bun to anyone who comes by. With a catch.

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

She’s one of them, through and through, and the basketball world has witnessed that in two historic seasons in Sierra Canyon. For the third time since her debut season with Windward, Watkins was named Girls Basketball Player of the Year by The Times.

It seemed unlikely that the USC signing would take her game to a higher level after a run to the state championship last year, and yet she became a more efficient goalscorer and improved ball handler as a senior, averaging 27.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.6 Assists Voted Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year. She scored 60 points during a seniors night game on January 31 and led Sierra Canyon to a Southern Section Open Division title before the team failed in the regional playoffs against Etiwanda.

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

Watkins never thought she’d take basketball this far, but she’s built a platform unlike few high schoolers in history — organic, just a kid coming out of Watts, people just taking notice because their game is special.

“It was really exciting to see that happen to an athlete,” Komaki said. “That triggered in my head – wow, that happens to an athlete. Period.”

The scary thing, Komaki said, is that Watkins hasn’t fulfilled her potential.

“Juju’s name is synonymous with greatness,” Komaki said, “in every sense.” Girls’ basketball player of the year: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins

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