Caitlin Clark Whispers Words of Wisdom While Hugging USC Star JuJu Watkins: “I Know It’s a Lot…”

Published 04/13/2024, 12:33 PM EDT

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As Caitlin Clark bids farewell to collegiate basketball, with her outstanding performances, she created new records and broke some historic ones during her time in Iowa Hawkeyes. Just in the span of 17 days during her final season, she went on to make some extraordinary feats; she broke Kelsey Plum’s record (3,527) in the women’s NCAA Division I and became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in men’s and women’s basketball with 3,771 points, surpassing Lynette Woodward’s all-time leading score (3,649) and LSU legend Pete Maravich  (3,667) for most career points in Division I history for men and women. But teenage sensation, JuJu Watkins is already threatening Clark’s records. Her prowess forced a legend of the game to pay and watch her play.

Just in her freshman year at the USC Trojans, Watkins garnered great reviews. In her debut game, she scored 32 points against Ohio State and made a statement. That season Watkins helped USC enter the ranks table from which they had been missing for many years. Soon they were in the 5th position in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings (highest position since 1994). She then received the Wooden Award All-American Honors, and the freshman was named one of the five finalists (Paige Bueckers, Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, and Hannah Hidalgo) for the prestigious John R. Wooden Award, which Caitlin Clark eventually won for the second time in a row.

During the award ceremony, Clark and Watkins were spotted giving each other a sisterly embrace. Clark who’s worn the ‘College Basketball Queen’ crown, knows the pressure that comes along. Watkins shared some behind-the-scenes footage through her Snapchat stories. The #1 WNBA draft pick had some encouraging words to share. Clark said, “I know it’s a lot you gotta go with it for a while, So let me know if you guys ever need.”

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Watkins scored 920 points this season as the nation’s highest-scoring freshman in history, surpassing Clark’s freshman-year record (799) set in 2020-21. With her outstanding performance and the accolades she has received, people are ready to crown the next big thing. And Watkins is well aware of the pressure and expectations on her shoulders.

During the latest episode of Podcast P, Watkins revealed “… I wouldn’t be considered the person I am without my competition. The comp is everything, the conferences, the great teams, that’s really what matters, just who you’re playing … wouldn’t say I’m doing it alone. There’s great teams everywhere, so many great players and I’m just glad that I get to play against them.

The Southern Cal player became the 6th USC player to earn the AP All-American First Team honors and joined the elite list alongside Paula McGee, Pam McGee, Cheryl Miller, Tina Thompson, and Lisa Leslie. Among them, Miller seems to have become a fan of Watkins already. It was reported that the former player who led the Trojans in the 80s purchased basketball season tickets after almost 15 years.

Cheryl Miller believes JuJu Watkins will carry USC’s legacy

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In 2021, when Lindsay Gottlieb was hired as the head coach of USC, she extended an open invitation to former players to come back and take part in any capacity, to benefit the team. That’s when the former head coach of the Trojans, Cheryl Miller, decided to get closer. Miller revealed that she bought 4 courtside seats for the USC college women’s basketball season after ages, just to watch JuJu Watkins.

Watkins time and again showcased her prowess and impressed Miller. In the match against Standford, the 18-year-old scored 51 points, which was the highest-scoring performance this season for men or women. In the match against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Watkins bagged 815 points, surpassing the USC record that Miller (814) set in 1986, which was also the last time the Trojans made it to the Women’s Final Four and reached the national championship game.

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With the way JuJu Watkins is leading USC, we could witness more records being broken and created as she is changing the landscape of women’s college basketball. When Watkins broke Miller’s record, she was so proud of her, that during the commentary of the game, Miller expressed, “She’s just special, you’ve seen it… The poise we spoke about that she has… She’s courageous to stick around, to come to USC of all places… The pressure to be here and continue the legacy or build up this legacy, she heck of a young lady…” 

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Not only Miller but even the former ‘College Basketball Queen’ is impressed with Watkins’ skills. During a recent interview, Clark revealed, “I would say JuJu right now probably. That is who I’d pay and go see…”

With Clark and Reese moving forward to the WNBA, Watkins will have the spotlight on her. She might not claim the title yet, but she is going to be one of the next big superstars of women’s college basketball.

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Written by:

Pranav Kotai

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Pranav Kotai is an NBA beat writer at EssentiallySports. With a master's in sports management and a lifelong passion for basketball, Pranav has an eye for understanding NBA like no other. Pranav is an open encyclopedia of all storylines, with a well-rounded approach to his writing, especially for his favorites like NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph