As part of our 1-v-1 video series, USC’s India Otto sat down to interview teammate JuJu Watkins. 

Here are five things to know from our conversation with the freshman phenom from LA.

#1 JuJu defines her purpose as wanting to inspire others to not place limits on themselves.

Her advice to younger athletes is to “take a step back and just realize how grateful you are to be around so many great people and be in an environment where you’re able to have an impact on others. And don’t take that for granted any day.” She recommends “just always being in constant awe of how far you’ve come.”

#2 JuJu is self-reflective when it comes to the impact of her growing social media fame.

"People are always going to have something to say, so I think just taking that mindset that you can’t be perfect and everybody’s always going to have an opinion on something.”

#3 An LA native, JuJu says the state of basketball in LA is “just booming right now.”

“The Pac-12 and LA is just amazing, and I’m just glad that I’m able to be a part of that and feel the atmosphere every night.”

#4 JuJu is known for her drip.

Her favorite brands are Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, and Nike. And if she could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), she would choose Drake, Bob Marley, and Beyonce. 

#5 JuJu’s favorite piece of advice:

“To whom much is given. Much is required.”

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

JuJu Watkins is continuing on a historic pace, having broken Lisa Leslie’s record for 30-point games by a USC freshman just six games into the season.

As the unanimous No. 1 overall recruit of the 2023 class, Watkins came to the Trojans with high expectations – both from others and from herself. She even went so far as to tell Ari Chambers that among her goals for her college career are to win the national freshman of the year award and to lead USC to the national title by her senior year.

“Definitely have to have a natty by then for sure,” Watkins said.

And she’s off to a solid start.

After scoring a USC record 32 points in her debut, Watkins is averaging 26.8 points per game, sitting second in the nation behind reigning national player of the year Caitlin Clark (29.6). Through the first three weeks of the season, she’s taken home every single Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award – and she probably will take home the next.

Through six career games, Watkins has 161 points, 45 rebounds, 19 assists, 14 steals and 8 blocks, and she has helped USC to a perfect 6-0 record. In the last 20 years, according to OptaSTATS, just one other NBA, WNBA or D-I basketball player has reached all of those numbers over a six-game span: LeBron James.

Watkins also has led the No. 6 Trojans to their highest AP Top 25 ranking since 1994 – when Leslie was in her senior year.

And Watkins has gained the attention of NBA stars, including USC alum DeMar DeRozan.

“I’ve known her for awhile, so I’m not surprised at it at all,” he said of her performances so far. “Not at all. It’s amazing to see what she represent, what she come from. To be able to stay home and bring women’s basketball back to the high level that it’s at. … It’s amazing to see what she’s doing with that. What the whole program is doing. I’m not surprised, but I’m definitely happy for sure.”

USC freshman JuJu Watkins has high expectations for her time with the Trojans.

Speaking with Ari Chambers on “ChattHER,” Watkins said that it’s “been great” stepping into her first year. While she had confidence in both the program and in her teammates before college, it’s grown exponentially since she stepped on campus.

“To come here, have my family here, have an even bigger family now that I’m here in the staff, the coaches, my teammates, it’s a dream come true and I couldn’t have wished for anything better,” the Southern California native said.

Watkins’ motivations include the feeling of winning and being able to share that with her team. But she also just wants to be happy, noting that happiness is “everything.”

Already, Watkins has the Trojans (3-0) off to a hot start. She scored 32 points in her debut against Ohio State, the most by a USC freshman in her debut since Lisa Leslie. And against Le Moyne on Monday, she had 35 points.

She’s the first D-I freshman in the last 25 seasons with multiple 30-point games in her first three career games. And she joins Leslie as the only USC freshmen to have multiple 30-point games.

One of her goals this year is to get USC to the NCAA Tournament. Another is to win the national freshman of the year award. Already, she’s off to a good start. And beyond that? She wants to bring USC a national title by her senior year.

“Definitely have to have a natty by then for sure,” she said when asked about what she wants to accomplish in her college career. And then the next thing? “Player of the year, Naismith.”

On Friday, 574 days after her last basketball game, Aaliyah Gayles made her debut for USC.

Gayles entered with 1:40 left in the game to a standing ovation from the USC bench and cheers from the crowd at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. As the clock ticked down on the 67-51 win over Florida Gulf Coast, she dribbled the ball near half court and was surrounded by her teammates in celebration.

“It felt good,” Gayles told ESPN. “It boosted my confidence a little bit. I feel like I was back to my old self.”

It’s been a long road back for Gayles, who was shot at least nine times at a Las Vegas house party in April 2022. She had multiple surgeries to repair the damage from the shooting, with left fractures in all four of her limbs. Before she worked her the way back to the court, she had to learn how to walk again, and she spent her freshman year in intense rehab.

Her father, Dwight, was in attendance Sunday, as was USC legend Cheryl Miller.

“It sent chills through my body,” Dwight told ESPN. “She did it. She finally touched the floor of a USC basketball court.”

Aaliyah Gayles is cleared and eligible to play basketball for USC more than a year after she was shot at least nine times at a Las Vegas house party in April 2022.

Even when Gayles could hardly walk after the shooting, her return to the basketball court stayed on her mind. And she did so last September, when she first was cleared to train. She redshirted at USC last year, doing rehab on the sidelines as she watched her Trojan teammates put together a solid season, which included an upset of Stanford.

“I could be dropping dimes to my bigs right now. I could be dropping dimes to my shooters,” Gayles told ESPN at the time. “All I want to do is help my teammates. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. Get back on my feet so I can help them for next year.”

It was only a matter of time before she joined them. But it was still a long road back.

“It was never about just go play basketball,” USC athletic trainer Erin Tillman told ESPN. “It was like, just learn how to live first.”

Eventually, she made her way back, joining the team in the weight room and on the court for drills with her teammates. There’s still some hesitancy to her play, and it’s a little bit harder than it used to be.

“It’s like she’s not 100% who she was before, but sometimes I see herself get frustrated and doubt herself,” USC forward Rayah Marshall said. “I’m like, ‘Calm down. The game will come to you. Play your game. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t go overthinking things. It’s just basketball.'”

Still, Gayles will be eligible to play starting on  Nov. 6, when No. 21 USC opens its season against No. 7 Ohio State. The game will be played in Las Vegas, Gayles’ hometown. And while she might not make her USC debut in that game, she can see it on the horizon.

“That’s the No. 1 thing on my mind right now,” she told ESPN. “Playing and getting right.”

And her teammates have no doubt that she will.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as resilient,” Marshall said. “She just have this dog in her.”

Aneesah Morrow has a transfer destination: LSU.

One of the top players in the NCAA basketball transfer portal this offseason, Morrow had narrowed down her list to LSU, USC and South Carolina, and she visited both USC and LSU. After spending last weekend in Baton Rouge, she canceled her visit to South Carolina and committed to the reigning champion Tigers.

She announced her decision in a video sponsored by Caktus AI, in which she asked the tool various questions about the transfer process, ending with: “I want to win championships and build a dynasty. Where is the best place for me to achieve my goals?”

The answer for Morrow: LSU, which just won its first national championship in coach Kim Mulkey’s second year with the program.

In Morrow’s two seasons at DePaul, she led the Big East in rebounding and double-doubles. In the 2022-23 season, she finished fourth in the country in scoring with 25.7 points per game.

She joins Louisville transfer Hailey Van Lith in flipping to LSU, pushing the Tigers’ chances for a repeat title even higher.

Morrow also makes the Tigers that much more dangerous, as the 6-1 forward is one of the most productive players in the country. She also has two years of eligibility remaining, meaning she’ll be playing with Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson for a while yet.

“I’m never intimidated by playing against or playing on a team with amazing, talented players,” the rising junior told ESPN. “That’s what I want to be surrounded around. I want to be around players who are going to make me better.”

LSU is pulling out all the stops when it comes to recruiting Aneesah Morrow.

After landing Louisville transfer Hailey Van Lith in a blockbuster move, the reigning national champions hosted Morrow for an official visit last weekend. During that visit, they decked out her hotel room with snacks, confetti and fake dollar bills with Morrow’s photo on them — plus edited photos of the DePaul transfer decked out in purple-and-gold Tigers gear.

@_neesthabeast Official visit 🥳#lsu #24 #fypシ #wbb #viral #fyp ♬ Ice Cream Man X Walk It Talk It (Remix) - Keenan Anshari

LSU also used block letters to spell out her last name in true Baton Rouge fashion, writing “Morreaux” on the window in reference to the school’s “Geaux Tigers” catchphrase.

One of the top players in the country last season, the 20-year-old forward finished as the NCAA’s fourth-leading scorer with 25.7 points per game.

LSU is one of three schools on Morrow’s shortlist, along with USC and South Carolina. She already has visited USC, and she had an official visit to South Carolina planned for the end of this week, ESPN’s Alexa Philippou reported.

A decision could be imminent. “TODAY IS THE DAY,” Morrow tweeted Friday morning, fueling speculation about her next destination.

Juju Watkins is the Gatorade National Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.

The USC commit, who also won this year’s Naismith High School Player of the Year award, received with the Gatorade award Monday during a photoshoot. WNBA star Candace Parker presented the Sierra Canyon high school senior with the award.

“This is one of the most prestigious awards you can get,” Watkins told The Athletic. “Just to get it and end it off the right way is really special for me. And it just gives me a lot of motivation going into next year at USC.”

As a senior, Watkins led her California high school to a 31-1 record, averaging 27.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. Last summer, she earned MVP while helping the U-17 U.S. women’s national team to a FIBA World Cup championship.

“Although we already had a legacy and winning culture at Sierra Canyon, Juju took this program to a different level,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki told ESPN. “She propelled us to win at the absolute highest level of competition. She took everyone’s best shot and delivered night after night.

“She made our program better… She made her teammates better. She made me a better coach. I truly believe she is one of the best to ever play high school basketball and her legacy will not just be about statistics and championships but how she handled being a superstar.”

As Watkins begins her college career next season with the Trojans, she has her sights set on one thing.

“I hope to add some hardware, some championships,” she said. “Just bringing USC back to what it was.”

USC won NCAA women’s basketball titles in 1983 and 1984 but has made just four March Madness appearances since 2000, including this year.

“Juju had the courage to stay home and is driven to bring USC women’s basketball back to prominence. What a monumental day for all of us in the Trojan family,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said when Watkins announced her commitment to the Trojans in November.

USC commit Juju Watkins headlines the trio of three finalists for the Gatorade National Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year award.

Hannah Hidalgo, a Notre Dame commit out of Paul VI (New Jersey), and Jadyn Donovan, a Duke recruit out of Sidwell Friends (Washington, D.C.), round out the group of finalists.

For California native Watkins, the award comes after a rollercoaster week. The Sierra Canyon guard and her team lost in the state regional final on Tuesday night, ending their quest for a perfect season and a state championship. But on Friday, she was named the Naismith Girls’ High School Player of the Year.

The rising star grew up just 10 minutes from the USC campus, and she’ll stay close to home as she continues her basketball career. She announced her commitment to USC in November in front of fiends and classmates at Sierra Canyon.

“Juju is the best and most decorated player of her class both in the country and internationally, ” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said in a press release at the time. “I could talk for days about her skill set: her shot-making ability, creativity to the rim, dominance on the boards, defensive tenacity and her elite court vision.”

The 6-foot-1 guard led Sierra Canyon to a state title in her junior season with 24.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.0 blocks per game.

McDonald’s All-American Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot 10 times at a North Las Vegas house party, has signed a national letter of intent to USC, the school said Monday.

The basketball recruit from Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas was released from the hospital Saturday after undergoing a series of surgeries to treat injuries sustained in the shooting.

Gayles reportedly was one of four people shot at the April 16 gathering, with no arrests yet made.

Gayles, who averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists last season, is the No. 8 recruit in the 2022 class according to ESPN.

“Aaliyah is one of the most talented, athletically gifted basketball players I’ve known. She is electric on the court, with her ability to score, defend and create for others with her ball-handling and vision,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said in a statement. “But from the moment I got to know her, I was also drawn to her character. Her humility, loyalty, warm personality and resilience set her apart, along with her athletic gifts.”

Just before being released from the hospital to a physical therapy facility, Gayles told FOX5 Vegas that her “body is feeling alright but it hurts still.”

After providing the local media outlet with an update on her condition, Gayles was sure to thank everyone who lent their love and support.

“First thing I told everybody is don’t cry — cause I didn’t. But I’m feeling — emotionally I’m feeling good. I’m just ready to get back on the court,” Gayles said.