When Juju Watkins walks right into a gymnasium, folks concentrate. Since her freshman basketball season, she has been on a path to greatness. Everyone sees it, is aware of it, predicts it. Now it’s as much as her to finish the duty.
In her senior yr at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High, Watkins will likely be surrounded by a powerful group of future faculty gamers, making the Trailblazers a candidate to be not solely one of the best group in California however one of the best within the nation. Eleven of 12 gamers return from final season’s Open Division state championship group.
Coach Alicia Komaki has already concluded the Trailblazers are an excellent group. But that’s not the aim.
“We want to be great,” she stated.
Having the 6-foot-2 Watkins, thought of the No. 1 participant within the nation for the category of 2023, definitely helps. So does the presence of an bettering junior in Mackenly Randolph, who ranks among the many finest for the category of 2024. Together, Watkins and Randolph gained a gold medal enjoying for the U17 nationwide group this summer season in Hungary.
Opposing gamers and coaches know that Watkins is a trendsetter and generational expertise.
“You haven’t seen anything like her in my 23 years of coaching,” Etiwanda coach Stan Delus stated.
“She’s doing amazing things,” stated Hana Speaks, the reigning Mission League participant of the yr from L.A. Marlborough High. “It’s great to be part of the same generation.”
Watkins is scheduled to make her faculty announcement on Tuesday with USC, Stanford and South Carolina the finalists.
Watkins appreciates the popularity and respect.
“I respect everybody who wants to play their best game against me,” Watkins stated. “It challenges me to play my best game also.”
Etiwanda is the one battle-tested group able to difficult the Trailblazers. The Eagles defeated Sierra Canyon 69-57 within the Southern Section Open Division finals earlier than dropping their solely sport of the season within the regional last, 60-51, to the Trailblazers when Watkins scored 29 factors. The Eagles return 12 gamers from their 29-1 group.
“This year’s group is up for the challenge,” Delus stated. “Since we started in August, we picked it up tremendously defensively because it was our main focus after we defended in that last game.”
Junior 6-1 ahead Kennedy Smith and sophomore level guard Aliyahna Morris lead the Eagles, who’ve added 6-1 San Bernardino Cajon switch Myelle Richards. Etiwanda and Sierra Canyon aren’t scheduled to play this season until they meet within the playoffs.
Delus is already considering the right way to take care of Watkins.
“You have to constantly move and shift your defense,” he stated. “You have to attack her as well and make her defend.”
Among different groups and gamers to look at, Santa Ana Mater Dei and veteran coach Kevin Kiernan have proficient guards Caia Elisaldez and Hannah Vela.
L.A. Windward returns guard Skye Belker, a Princeton commit and the most effective three-point shooters within the Southland.
Corona Santiago has picked up star guard Destiny Agubata from Etiwanda. She averaged 17 factors final season.
Chloe Briggs from Ontario Christian will likely be a four-year starter who averaged 22.7 factors final season.
Here is the preseason rating of Southland groups by CalHiSports.com:
1. Sierra Canyon
3. Mater Dei
6. Orangewood Academy
7. Rosary Academy
8. Bishop Montgomery
11. Granada Hills
12. Oaks Christian
13. Sage Hill
14. Corona Santiago
15. Bishop Alemany
17. Long Beach Poly
19. Santa Margarita
20. Orange Lutheran