Daily News All-Area Girls Basketball: Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins repeats as the Player of the Year

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LA DAILY NEWS ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL 2023

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Juju Watkins, Sierra Canyon, Sr.

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins looks on during a timeout against Ontario Christian in their CIF Southern Section Open Division playoff game February 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

There isn’t much that Sierra Canyon senior Juju Watkins can’t do on a basketball court.

The 6-foot guard can shoot 3-pointers and midrange jumpers, drive to the basket, create scoring opportunities for others, defend and she knows how to win.

Watkins is the Daily News girls basketball Player of the Year for a second straight season, and she’s widely considered the best high school girls basketball player the San Fernando Valley has ever seen.

Watkins has been the No. 1 recruit in the country for the Class of 2023 since her freshman year, when she led Windward to the CIF Southern Section Open Division final against Mater Dei.

Windward didn’t win that day in February 2020, but Watkins scored 28 points and showed the potential to be a special player.

Watkins is now a USC commit who was a McDonald’s All-American this season. She averaged 27.3 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocks per game while leading Sierra Canyon to a 31-1 overall record and the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship.

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins against Ontario Christian in their CIF Southern Section Open Division playoff game February 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon senior Juju Watkins, left, was presented the national Gatorade award by WNBA star Candace Parker during a surprise ceremony at the school Monday, March 13. (Photo courtesy of Gatorade)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins takes a shot against Etiwanda during the CIF State Open Division SoCal Regional final at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins loses the ball during a layup attempt against Etiwanda during the CIF State Open Division SoCal Regional final at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins takes a shot against Eitwanda during the CIF State Open Division SoCal Regional final at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins (12) walks off the court with her team after they lost to Etiwanda, 55-54, in the CIF State Open Division SoCal Regional final at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins, left, looks to get past Mater Dei’s Caia Elisaldez during Saturday’s CIF Southern California Regional game Saturday, March 4, at Sierra Canyon High. (Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Sierra Canyon Juju Watkins, center, and center Emilia Krstevski celebrate winning the CIF-SS Open Division Championship basketball game against Etiwanda in Anaheim on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Etiwanda forward Mykelle Richards, right, tries to regain control of the ball as Sierra Canyon Juju Watkins moves in in the CIF-SS Open Division Championship basketball game in Anaheim on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon Juju Watkins, right, Carolina Yerke, left, and other team members celebrate after winning the CIF-SS Open Division Championship basketball game against Etiwanda in Anaheim on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon Juju Watkins, right, and Etiwanda forward Mykelle Richards scramble for a loose ball in the CIF-SS Open Division Championship basketball game in Anaheim on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins against Ontario Christian in their CIF Southern Section Open Division playoff game February 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Sierra Canyon’s injured JuJu Watkins helps with rebounding before their game with Harvard-Westlake Tuesday, January 3, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Sierra Canyon girls basketball player Juju Watkins is the top-ranked girls’ basketball player in the country — for good reason. (Photo courtesy of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame)

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Watkins has won everything there is to win at the highest high school level and did it all the last two years at Sierra Canyon. She helped the Trailblazers win an Open Division SoCal Regional crown (2022), an Open Division state title (2022) and an Open Division section title (2023). She is a two-time Gatorade California Player of the Year honoree and was named the 2023 Gatorade and Naismith National Player of the Year.

Watkins etched herself into San Fernando Valley lore when she scored 60 points and notched 21 rebounds in an 88-39 win over Notre Dame on Jan. 31, marking the second-best scoring performance in area history, according to Cal-Hi Sports.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Yalee Schwartz, Shalhevet, Jr.

Yalee Schwartz #24 of Shalhevet scores against the San Domenico in the second half of a girls basketball CIF State Division IV championship game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Yalee Schwartz, known to her teammates as “Big Red,” was a dominating force for Shalhevet in its successful drive to win a CIF State title after falling short in 2022. Schwartz averaged 20.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 55% from the field for the Firehawks (26-2).

Schwartz tallied 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in three postseason games, and she had 21 points and 13 rebounds in a victory over San Domenico 50-46 in the CIF State Division IV title game in Sacramento.

She earned All-CIF honors and was named the John R. Wooden Player of the Year in CIF-SS Division 4.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Mackenly Randolph, Sierra Canyon, Jr.

Sierra Canyon’s Mackenly Randolph, left, gets past Etiwanda’s Jada Sanders to score a basket in the CIF-SS Open Division Championship basketball game in Anaheim on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

Mackenly Randolph was the area’s best defensive force this season, and she might be the toughest girls basketball player in the area. Perhaps, in all of Southern California.

Randolph does not shy from contact, she does not shy from big moments, and she certainly doesn’t back down from a challenge. The daughter of longtime NBA forward Zach Randolph, she was a force to be reckoned with on Sierra Canyon’s team that went 31-1.

The junior forward averaged 16.9 points, while shooting 60.8% from the field, 10.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 32 games.

Randolph’s most impressive stretch of the season came when Juju Watkins was sidelined by an injury and missed a few Mission League games. Randolph kept the team afloat, which helped her earn Mission League MVP honors. Randolph was also named to the All-CIF Open Division team.

BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Lola Donez, Oaks Christian, Jr.

It is said that the mark of a good player is the ability to get better. That’s what Lola Donez did this season under first-year coach Keani Albanez. Oaks Christian played this season without 2022 CIF Player of the Year Brooklyn Shamblin, who missed the entire season due to injury. Donez didn’t just step up, she became the team’s best scorer.

Last year as a sophomore, Donez averaged 7.3 points per game. This year, the 5-foot-11 guard averaged a team-high 13.7 points to anchor Oaks Christian (19-7), which won the Marmonte League title by going 9-1.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Delaney White, Oak Park

Oak Park’s Delaney White passes the ball during the CIF Southern Section Division 5A championships against St. Monica Prep in Manhattan Beach on Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

Delaney White is a name to keep an eye on for three more years. The freshman averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 34 games this season to lead Oak Park to the CIF-SS Division 5A championship.

White also averaged 2.9 steals per game and tied a Ventura County record with 19 assists in a game, which came against Moorpark on Jan. 11. The standout point guard was named CIF-SS Division 5AA Co-Player of the Year with teammate Lindsay Gould.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Ryan Coleman, Shalhevet

Head coach Ryan Coleman of Shalhevet reacts after defeating San Domenico 50-46 to win the girls basketball CIF State Division IV championship game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ryan Coleman didn’t just make history once, he did it twice.

The fiery coach – always primed with a snarky one-liner – led Shalhevet this season to the program’s first CIF State championship. In 2022, he led Shalhevet to the state finals for the first time, although it lost.

In this year’s final, Shalhevet prevailed by defeating San Domenico 50-46 for the Division IV title.

The Firehawks finished the season 26-2.

DAILY NEWS ALL-AREA TEAM

Izela Arenas, Sierra Canyon, Jr.

Alline Ballard, Campbell Hall, Sr.

Lindsay Gould, Oak Park, Jr.

Kylie Ray, Crescenta Valley, Jr.

Emma Schaaf, Trinity Classical Academy, Jr.

Layla Davis, Village Christian, Jr.

Morgan Mack, Hart, So.

Laney Grider, Hart, Sr.

Bella Spencer, Harvard-Westlake, So.

Hunter Hudson, Chaminade, Sr.

Marianne Boco, Granada Hills Charter, Jr.

Taylor Westbrook, Louisville, Jr.

Mathis Dritz, Westlake, Fr.

Hannah Lising, Sun Valley Poly, Jr.

Aaliyah Garcia, Canyon, Sr.

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