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The queens of March Madness: USC's freshman guard Juju Watkins and her USC Trojans


JuJu Watkins has all the assets. She's got a jump shot.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Elevating? Deep? You bet - JuJu.


CHANG: She's got size and speed.






CHANG: And she has style. She wears her hair in a trademark bun, though not always, as our producer Jason Fuller found out.

JASON FULLER, BYLINE: I have my hair up in a bun. You know, the inspo (ph)...

JUJU WATKINS: Looks great.

FULLER: I thought that we could be matching a little bit, but, you know...

WATKINS: That's on me. That's my bad.


Her hair was down. It's been a banner year for women's college basketball, with viewership up 60% across national networks. So with March Madness upon us, we talked with some of the star players poised for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Today, University of Southern California freshman guard, JuJu Watkins.

WATKINS: I watched a lot of Candace Parker growing up. And, of course, LeBron was my generation. He's so influential. I try to model my, like, game and, like, compassion after them.

CHANG: LeBron James has, in turn, come out to see the USC women's team play. Even USC legend Cheryl Miller has paid for tickets.

WATKINS: Yeah, I mean, I'm always in shock. Like, I mean, Cheryl's the GOAT of women's basketball. So for her to really buy tickets when she probably could have got them for free is crazy.

SHAPIRO: Watkins is from Southern California, from the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. JuJu's great-grandfather established the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, an anti-poverty nonprofit, after the 1965 Watts riots. She volunteered there as a kid, and that's all part of her decision to attend USC.

WATKINS: Yeah, I think USC - there's a rich history here, and I'm glad to be a part of that. So that was a big part of my decision-making process. And then just wanting to stay home and really just grow my roots here in LA and have that reach. I think that it was important for me since I value my community so much and where I'm from.

CHANG: Watkins says she believes she's continuing to grow as a person and as a player. But as a freshman, Watkins has already led her team to a conference championship while becoming the second-leading scorer in Division 1. And she says her squad is peaking at the right time.

WATKINS: We're finally like a true team now. I feel like everybody knows their role, knows their spots. And I think that, as we continue to just stay level-headed throughout everything, even coming off a championship, we're not satisfied.

CHANG: JuJu Watkins and her No. 1-seeded USC Trojans play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi this Saturday.

(SOUNDBITE OF DR. DRE SONG, "THE NEXT EPISODE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason Fuller
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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