USC's JuJu Watkins named Pac-12 freshman of the year, three Bruins on All-Pac-12 team

Southern California guard JuJu Watkins (12) celebrates with teammates during a timeout.
USC guard JuJu Watkins is the program's sixth freshman of the year and first since 2020. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

After winning 14 of 17 Pac-12 freshman of the week honors, USC’s JuJu Watkins was named conference freshman of the year on Tuesday.

The phenom who leads the conference in scoring at 27.8 points rewrote USC’s record books.

The Sierra Canyon alumna’s laundry list of program records includes USC’s single-season freshman scoring record (751), the most points scored in a game (51 against Stanford) and most 30-point games in a season (11). Not only was she the first woman in conference history to sweep the conference player and freshman of the week awards multiple times in a season, she did it three times. She led the Trojans to their highest-ever seed in the Pac-12 tournament, entering this week’s event as the No. 2 team that will open the postseason in the quarterfinals on Thursday against Washington or Arizona.

Watkins was named to the All-Pac-12 team, along with USC's second-leading scorer McKenzie Forbes and UCLA's Lauren Betts, Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice. The Bruins, who have the third seed in the Pac-12 tournament, could play USC in the semifinal on Friday in Las Vegas.

Read more: Why USC's JuJu Watkins is 'your favorite basketball player's favorite basketball player'

With Watkins at the center of USC’s revival, the Trojans (23-5, 13-5 Pac-12) are primed to make their first back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances since 2005-06 and are currently ranked fifth in the country. Watkins, who ranks second in the nation in scoring, led USC to its highest conference win total since 1997 and most regular-season wins since 1994. The Trojans cracked the top five in the Associated Press rankings for the first time since 1994.

Watkins is USC’s sixth conference freshman of the year and first since Alissa Pili won the award in 2020. The Watts native also leads the Trojans in rebounds with 7.2 per game and tallied 2.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game to earn conference all-defensive honorable mention, along with teammate Rayah Marshall.

Watkins is a front-runner to add to her trophy case with at least national freshman of the year honors, battling Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo, who leads the ACC in scoring with 23.8 points and leads the nation with 4.9 steals. Watkins could become USC’s first first-team All-American since Tina Thompson in 1997.

She was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale top five on Tuesday, along with Osborne.

Osborne earned her fourth All-Pac-12 honor and her second all-defensive team recognition while shooting career bests from the floor (41.6%), three-point range (32.6%) and from the free-throw line (88.9). She is averaging 14.1 points per game.

Betts has starred for the Bruins (24-5, 13-5 Pac-12) since transferring from Stanford. She earned her first all-conference recognition and joined Osborne on the five-player all-defensive team after leading the Bruins in scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.7). She ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage at 66.7%.

Stanford’s Cameron Brink was named Pac-12 player and defensive player of the year after leading the Cardinal to the Pac-12 regular-season championship.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.