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Friday, April 19, 2024

‘Don’t lose sight of the fun’

Watkins scored over a staggering 800 points in her freshman season with USC.

At the heart of USC women’s basketball, a bridge spans generations, linking past Trojan legends to the bright future embodied by stars like JuJu Watkins. Ahead of the madness of March Madness and the women’s NCAA Tournament, USC legend Cheryl Miller offered some advice to Watkins in a moment of mentorship that has long defined USC’s program.

Miller, whose legacy as a player and coach at USC is unmatched, shared invaluable advice with Watkins, emphasizing the importance of joy in the demanding world of college basketball.

“If there was advice that I could give you … one thing, enjoy it. Don’t lose sight of the fun,” Miller said in an interview with Andscape alongside Watkins. “Now it was easy for me to embrace that … because I didn’t have the social media like you do. I didn’t have everybody coming out of the woodwork and … the money and everything else.”

Miller, reflecting on her own experiences and the evolution of the sport, stressed the significance of mental well-being and finding personal solace amid the whirlwind of athletic and academic commitments. 

“I want you to find that quiet space where there’s no one else, where it’s your time to exhale,” Miller said. “I’m not worried about the physical because you’re, you know, you’re a young kid …  But it’s the mental fatigue that I worry … That’ what I need for you – to find that quiet place for you.”

Today’s stars echo USC’s history

Southern California Trojans guard Aaliyah Gayles (left) and guard JuJu Watkins (12) celebrate after the Pac-12 Tournament women's championship game against the Stanford Cardinal
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

JuJu Watkins, the prodigious freshman guard for USC women’s basketball, stands at the forefront of a new era for the team. With an impressive tally of 810 points this season, Watkins has not only rewritten record books but also infused a fresh vitality into the program. Her performance helped clinch the Pac-12 tournament title for the first time since 2014, a feat that resonates with the legacy of excellence USC is known for.

Watkins’ achievements have drawn praise from figures like Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd, who sees Watkins as not just a college athlete but a professional in the making. Loyd’s insights highlight a transformative period in women’s college basketball, where players like Watkins are pivotal in elevating the sport’s profile and inspiring the next generation.

The bond between past and present is a defining characteristic of USC women’s basketball. Cheryl Miller’s era, marked by unparalleled success and teamwork, laid a foundation that today’s stars like Watkins build upon. Miller’s acknowledgment of her teammates and the collective spirit that propelled USC to greatness underlines the tradition of excellence passed onto Watkins. 

“I was just one of many. So just to be a part of the legacy and the tradition, you know, it’s an honor” Miller said. “And then to sit next to the future – the bright future … I mean, I’m living the best life right now, because of these younguns over here.”

As USC women’s basketball continues into the NCAA tournament, Miller’s legacy, characterized by triumphs and challenges, offers a roadmap for Watkins and her teammates.

Erin Achenbach_headshot

About the Author

Erin Achenbach is the Lead Women’s Sports Editor at ClutchPoints, championing women’s sports coverage and media representation. Originally from Dallas, she graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 2017. Now residing in St. Louis, the lifelong Texas Rangers fan has spent the past five years covering community news, and avoiding any Cardinals fans who remind her about Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

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