The first collegiate game for the top recruit in the United States is a big occasion for any college sports program. In basketball, football, baseball, and any other sport, the status of a No. 1 recruit draws instant attention. Will that player pan out? Will that prospect be as good as advertised? Will that recruit have a significant impact on the program? USC women’s basketball point guard JuJu Watkins answered those kinds of questions quite emphatically in her USC women’s basketball debut on Monday in Las Vegas.
Watkins, the No. 1 recruit in America for the 2023 class, stepped onto a court in a live regular-season game for the first time as a USC Trojan in Vegas against No. 6 Ohio State, a legitimate Final Four contender.
Watkins was the best player on the floor in her freshman debut. How about that for a first impression?
Watkins dominated Ohio State, scoring 32 points while accumulating six rebounds and five steals. Watkins’ 32 points came on a very efficient 11-of-18 shooting performance from the field.
Watkins definitely had a lot of help from her USC teammates, especially Rayah Marshall, the returning forward who gives the Trojans frontcourt defense and rebounding. Marshall was also outstanding, delivering 18 points, 17 rebounds, and six steals.
Yet, USC won this game primarily because of Watkins.
It was Watkins who built a 46-28 halftime lead for the Trojans. When she got into foul trouble in the third quarter, Ohio State promptly outscored USC 19-2 in the several minutes after she left. The Buckeyes took the lead by the end of the third quarter, which was a disaster for the Trojans.
Watkins entered the fourth quarter with four fouls and had to find a way to be effective while staying on the floor.
She didn’t foul out. She played the fourth quarter and scored several quick points to restore USC’s lead. The Trojans won 83-74 and already have a statement win one day into their new season.
Not bad for a freshman making her collegiate debut.
The JuJu Watkins era at USC is off to a flying start.