Top recruit in women’s basketball JoJo Watkins, who grew up 10 miles from the USC campus, signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday with the Trojans.
And Watkins, a USC selection over South Carolina and Stanford finalists, is a two-time USA Basketball gold medalist, defending California state champion Sierra Canyon High School, and state Gatorade girls basketball player of the year.
The 17-year-old, who grew up in Watts, is ready to join the roster of USC basketball legends who grew up in the Los Angeles area, including Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie And the Tina Thompson.
“I didn’t want to rush that process,” Watkins said. “A lot of people in my class had already committed before me, and I was definitely taking my time. But I want to make sure I’m 1,000 percent where I wanted to go.”
Watkins joins Malia Samuels, the 5-foot-6 guard from Garfield High School in Seattle, in Coach Lindsey Gottlieb’s 2022-23 recruiting class. Samuels is the 49th prospect on the 2023 espnW 100.
Watkins, a versatile 6-2 guard, averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.0 blocks last season for Sierra Canyon on his way to winning a state title. Last summer, she started all seven games as a member of the USA Basketball Under-17 Women’s National Team and averaged 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals.
Watkins became the third top 10 recruit to sign with USC since espnW began its national rankings in 2007, joining No. 7 Jordan Adams in 2012 and No. 8 High Giles in 2022.
USC hasn’t won a national championship since way back in 1983 and 1984. It last won a conference title in 1994 and a conference championship in 2014. But its alumni list is as decorated as that of any school: Cooper-Dyke, two-time NCAA champion, four-time WNBA Champion and former USC coach; Miller, a two-time NCAA champion, three-time Naismith Player of the Year, and the program’s all-time leading scorer; Leslie, the Naismith Trophy winner, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and two-time WNBA champion; and Thompson, the first college player drafted into the WNBA, is the second-leading all-time leading scorer and four-time WNBA champion.
Now Watkins is poised to join the legendary Los Angeles Trojans to USC as a season five starter.
Growing up in Watts, Watkins started playing basketball at the age of seven despite her parents wanting her to play tennis as well Venus Williams And the Serena Williams. She exercised every day with her parents, Sari and Robert, in the backyard or at Watts’ gym which was named after her great-grandfather, Ted Watkins Sr., a civil rights activist in the 1960s.
Before her freshman year of high school, Watkins moved from Windward in Los Angeles to Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California, and joined coach Alicia Komaki’s championship team. In the Sierra Canyon, Watkins quickly found success and fame. Although the school boasts famous household names like James and the Kardashians, Watkins has become a celebrity of its own and helped fill the stands during the 2021-22 girls’ basketball season.
In February 2022, she became the first high school athlete to sign with the Klutch Sports Group to represent the NIL. That October, Watkins finalized a zero-sum endorsement deal with Nike, along with fellow Sierra Canyon star Bronnie James, the Iowa point guard. Caitlin ClarkStanford guard Haley Jones and top guard 2023 DJ Wagner.
“Jojo has been in the national spotlight since seventh grade,” said Komaki. “When she first came to Sierra Canyon, I knew she had a name with her and I understood that. She understood her responsibility to the game because of who she is. And when you play in college, she’ll do the same. The name on the front will be just as important as the name on the back.”
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”