USC-bound guard Judea Watkins named Gatorade Player of Year

Sierra Canyon senior guard Judea Watkins has been named the National Gatorade Player of the Year.

Watkins, who has signed to play at USC, led her squad to a 31-1 record, with the lone loss coming in the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division semifinals. Sierra Canyon has sat atop the SCNext Top 25 Power Rankings for the majority of the season as the Trailblazers played a challenging schedule that took them coast to coast. Watkins averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.

"Although we already had a legacy and winning culture at Sierra Canyon, Juju took this program to a different level," Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. "She propelled us to win at the absolute highest level of competition. She took everyone's best shot and delivered night after night. She made our program better ... she made her teammates better. She made me a better coach. I truly believe she is one of the best to ever play high school basketball and her legacy will not just be about statistics and championships but how she handled being a superstar.

"I think greatness fosters more greatness and her lasting impact will be that future generations will hold her as the standard to match up with."

Watkins' résumé includes back-to-back California Gatorade Player of the Year awards as well as this year's Naismith High School Player of the Year. She was named a McDonald's All American in January. The 6-foot-2 guard was the MVP of the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup. Watkins is the ESPN HoopGurlz No. 1 player in the class of 2023.

"It's no secret that high level elite players can take over a game with the ball in their hands, but Juju can dominate the game with or without the ball," Sue Phillips, coach of USA Basketball's gold-medal winning U17 squad, said in a news release. "A lot has been said about Juju's ability to score at all three levels. No doubt, it's fantastic. But there's not enough praise for her ability to pass, rebound and wreak havoc. She's the total package."

USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb shared her high praise of Watkins.

"Juju had a senior high school season that was nothing short of spectacular," Gottlieb said. "She was a dominant scorer in an efficient manner, while also rebounding with force and creating shots for others. Her team played top competition all over the country and she performed at an elite level on the biggest platforms. What I'm most proud of Juju for is her ability to make a lasting impact on the those around her, on her community, and on the game of basketball."