Home » USC women’s basketball continues to earn attention, including LeBron James’, in win over UC Riverside

USC women’s basketball continues to earn attention, including LeBron James’, in win over UC Riverside

LOS ANGELES — If you’re a real hooper, Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy said, you know JuJu Watkins.

Safe to say LeBron James, by most definitions, fits the mold of a real hooper. And he’s known Watkins at least since the days she dominated at Sierra Canyon, the two exchanging a dap after the Chosen-1 Invitational at the Crypt in Watkins’ junior year, Watkins and Bronny James both on a concurrent journey to USC.

“You hear about athletes like this every blue moon, right?” Handy told the Southern California News Group, a trainer who’s worked with Watkins since her ninth-grade year. “They don’t come along very often.”

So after USC men’s hoops lost 84-79 to Long Beach State, a disappointing end to a triumphant Bronny debut, LeBron remained courtside for much of the first half to watch Watkins and the women’s team — dominating UC Riverside in a 85-53 win in a double-header immediately after the win.

“It’s unbelievable — like, I get chills thinking about, what my vision was in coming here,” said head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “And obviously, I never envisioned, like, all the characters and the things that were at play today. But you envisioned doing something special.”

“Really, to have a large portion of that crowd that has maybe has never seen us play,” Gottlieb continued later, “we are changing a culture here.”

A rapid change too, from a program flying far below the national radar extending into Gottlieb’s first year that now has become a national power with the recruitment of hometown-kid Watkins, the girl from Watts who’s helping to re-establish Los Angeles as an epicenter for women’s basketball. And as she’s done in every game across an undefeated 8-0 start, Watkins put on a show for the crowd of close to 10,000 that remained after the men’s game — dropping an easy 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting in an 85-53 win.