Saturday July 20th, 2024 12:19AM

JuJu Watkins enjoying summer, dreams of playing in 2028 Olympics in hometown Los Angeles

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — JuJu Watkins has already thought about how special it would be to play for the U.S. in 2028 at the Olympics in her hometown of Los Angeles.

“That's definitely a long-term goal of mine when I get done with my college career," Watkins said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Definitely something I'm looking forward to and having the chance to do that in my city would definitely be a dream come true.”

For now, Watkins is focused on the present and enjoying her summer before heading into her sophomore year at USC. The first-team AP All-American has had a busy couple of days.

She threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game on Saturday and then flew across the country to New York to take part in a Meta AI event Tuesday night with Chance the Rapper.

“That was definitely crazy, a dream come true,” she said of the pitch. “Grew up a Dodgers fan and to be able to go on the mound and pitch it was really cool. That was like a halfcourt shot, that was pretty far.”

Watkins, who is cool on the court, admitted that being on the mound was nerve-wracking.

“Definitely a lot of pressure. Top five most nervous moments for me. As long as it didn't bounce I was good,” she said.

She had nothing to worry about as her pitch easily made it to the plate.

Watkins has become a national star in women's basketball. She averaged 27.1 points to help USC to its best season in years as the Trojans reached the Elite Eight. Her games routinely have huge crowds, including many celebrities and have become must-watch events at USC.

She's well recognized in Los Angeles, getting mobbed after attending a Sparks home game by fans wanting pictures and autographs.

“LA is more chill compared to other places for sure. I think it's cool to be recognized in public,” she said. “Sometimes my friends and I all laugh about it because it's funny in a sense but I'm always enjoying it. Sometimes it can be a bit much, but I'm grateful.”

Watkins said that it was special that Caitlin Clark, the first time they met, offered to help her if she every needed advice on how to navigate being the face of women's basketball.

“She's great. Goes to show how good a person she is outside of basketball," Watkins said. "To have that kind of mentorship and that relationship with her, it definitely means a lot. She's had the biggest impact on women's basketball and being able to see her journey is really inspiring.”

Watkins said her generation of women basketball players has really benefitted from social media and sees AI being the next step to help people learn more about their favorites. Meta is launching a new initiative dubbed “Super Fan” this summer that will help fans keep up with their favorite athletes, sports and trends.

“I think initially (social media) gets attention on people, I want to know this about her, how she works out?” Watkins said. “So many questions that arise and Meta AI can be used to provide answers. Facts that aren’t opinion based that we see a lot on social media. We see so many opinions that aren’t based on facts. That’s where Meta AI comes in to educate people. Build that bridge and fill in that gap between fans and athletes.”


  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, AP Business, AP Sports - Women's College Basketball
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