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JuJu Watkins Eyes 2028 Olympic Dream, shines on and off the court |  WGN Radio 720

JuJu Watkins Eyes 2028 Olympic Dream, shines on and off the court | WGN Radio 720

NEW YORK (AP) — JuJu Watkins has already thought about how special it would be to play for the U.S. in the 2028 Olympics in her hometown of Los Angeles.

“That’s definitely a long-term goal of mine when I finish my college career,” Watkins said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Definitely something I’m looking forward to and having the chance to do that in my city would definitely be a dream come true.”

For now, Watkins is focusing on the present and enjoying her summer before heading into her sophomore year at USC. The first-team AP All-American had a busy couple of days.

She threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game on Saturday and then flew across the country to New York to attend a Meta AI event Tuesday night with Chance the Rapper.

“It was definitely crazy, a dream come true,” she said of the field. “I grew up a Dodgers fan and it was really cool to be able to go on the mound and pitch. It was like a half-court kick, that was pretty far.”

Watkins, who is cool on the field, admitted being on the mound was excruciating.

“Definitely a lot of pressure. Top five most nervous moments for me. As long as it didn’t bounce, I was good,” she said.

She had nothing to worry about as her pitch made it to the plate with ease.

Watkins became a national star in women’s basketball. She averaged 27.1 points to help USC have its best season in years as the Trojans reached the Elite Eight. Her games routinely draw huge crowds, including many celebrities, and have become must-see events at USC.

She is well known in Los Angeles, being mobbed after attending a Sparks home game by fans wanting pictures and autographs.

“LA is definitely cooler compared to other places. I think it’s great to be recognized in public,” she said. “Sometimes my friends and we all laugh about it because it’s funny in a way, but I always enjoy it. Sometimes it can be a bit much, but I’m grateful.”

Watkins said it was special that Caitlin Clark, the first time they met, offered to help her if she needed advice on how to navigate being the face of women’s basketball.

“She’s great. It goes to show how good of a person she is outside of basketball,” Watkins said. “Having that kind of mentorship and that relationship with her, it definitely means a lot. She’s had the biggest impact on of women’s basketball and being able to see her journey is truly inspiring.”

Watkins said her generation of basketball players has really benefited from social media and sees AI as the next step in helping people learn more about their favorites. Meta is launching a new initiative called “Super Fan” this summer that will help fans keep up with their favorite athletes, sports and trends.

“I think initially (social media) draws attention to people, I want to know that about her, how is she doing?” Watkins said. “So many questions arise, and Meta AI can be used to provide answers. Facts not based on opinion that we see a lot on social media. We see so many opinions that are not based on facts. That’s where Meta AI comes in to educate people. Build that bridge and bridge the gap between fans and athletes.”