Two-Time WNBA Champion Candace Parker Surprised Watkins with Honor

CHATSWORTH, Calif., March 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — In its 38th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Juju Watkins of Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, Calif. is the 2022-23 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Watkins won the prestigious award for her accomplishments on and off the court, joining an impressive group of former Gatorade National Girls Basketball Players of the Year who have combined for more than nine WNBA MVP awards, 53 All-Star appearances, 15 WNBA championships, 15 WNBA first round draft picks and two became Hall of Famers.

Two-time WNBA champion and two-time Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year Candace Parker surprised Watkins with the news, while her family, coaches and teammates showed up with the trophy at school. Check out a video of the announcement here.

The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes athletes not just for their excellence on the playing surface, but for their commitment in the classroom and impact in their community. Watkins was selected from nearly half a million other student-athletes who play girls basketball nationwide, topping the list of state winners in girls basketball who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 30 with signed National Letters of Intent to play girls basketball at Division I colleges/universities and 38 with a GPA of 3.5 and above. 

“Juju was in the conversation as one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2023 prior to playing her first high school game,” said Chris Menning, a national evaluator for Blue Star Basketball and U.S. Junior Nationals. “She truly separated herself from her peers as an upperclassman—her game continually evolved. A power guard who attacks the court with strength and vision, she still makes plays even when shots aren’t falling. Her competitiveness and character make her a welcome addition to the legacy of the Gatorade National Player of the Year.”

The 6-foot-2 senior guard led the Trailblazers to a 31-1 record and the statewide CIF Open Division tournament semifinals this past season. California’s returning Gatorade Player of the Year, Watkins averaged 27.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per game, sparking Sierra Canyon to the CIF-Southern Section Open Division title. A McDonald’s All-American, she led the USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team to the FIBA World Cup championship last summer, earning tournament MVP honors. She’s also ranked as the nation’s No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023 by ESPN and scored a career-high 60 points Jan. 31 against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High.

Watkins has volunteered locally on behalf of Hands for Hope, Shoes for Souls and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee as well as toy donation drives, a food bank and youth basketball camps.

Watkins has maintained a 3.72 GPA in the classroom. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at University of Southern California this fall.

In addition to excellence on and off the field of play, Gatorade Players of the Year also pay it forward for the next generation. As part of Gatorade’s Play it Forward initiative, Watkins will receive a grant to give to a 501c3 youth sports charity, which includes Gatorade’s social impact partners – Athlete Ally, Laureus USA, Move United, Women’s Sports Foundation and Up2Us Sports – supporting Gatorade’s ambition to fuel the future of sport.

“Juju’s dedication on and off the field of play has earned her a spot within the prestigious Gatorade Player of the Year family, a distinction shared by sports icons such as Jayson Tatum, Derek Jeter, Elena Delle Donne and countless community leaders,” said Gatorade Portfolio president and general manager Michael Del Pozzo. “We can’t wait to see the impact she makes on and off the court going forward.”

Each year, a selection committee evaluates the nation’s top talent to choose one state winner from each of the 50 states as well as Washington D.C., in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track & field. In all, 608 athletes are honored each year. From the pool of state winners, one national winner is selected in each of the 12 sports.

To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com or follow us on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/GatoradePOY, Instagram at instagram.com/Gatorade and Twitter at twitter.com/Gatorade.

About Gatorade
The Gatorade Company, a division of PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP), meets the needs of consumers who participate in sports and fitness, through brands that include Gatorade, Propel, Muscle Milk, Evolve and Fast Twitch. The solutions they provide are driven by a deep understanding of the unique occasions and needs across athletic activity. Gatorade, their marquee brand, is underpinned by a 57-year history of studying the best athletes in the world, and sports nutrition research by the Gatorade Sport Science Institute, allowing it to provide scientifically formulated products that meet athletes’ needs both on and off the field. For more information and a full list of products, please visit www.gatorade.com

About PepsiCo  
PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $86 billion in net revenue in 2022, driven by a complementary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Beverages and Convenient Foods by Winning with pep+ (PepsiCo Positive). pep+ is our strategic end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability and human capital at the center of how we will create value and growth by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for planet and people. For more information, visit www.pepsico.com, and follow on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn @PepsiCo.

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SOURCE The Gatorade Company


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