EXCLUSIVE: Klutch signs Sierra Canyon star Juju Watkins as first female athlete client

Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
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Klutch Sports Group is venturing further in its clientele representation. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) star Juju Watkins has signed as the agency’s first female athlete client, a partnership that will be announced Friday.

Klutch Sports Group CEO and Founder Rich Paul said the agency now has the foundation to broaden its client base and provide the support needed for female athletes.

“We’ve never been someone who’s just wanted to jump in something from a perspective of monetarily, but it’s important as you’re representing each individual and athletes as a whole, that you have the proper infrastructure to represent them at a level in which there’s not a dip,” Paul said. “If we’re going to represent the men a certain way, the women have to be represented the exact same way.”

The agency is aligning itself with a young, high-profile client who can be a face of women’s basketball. Watkins, currently in her junior season, is a FIBA U16 Gold Medalist and MVP with Team USA, Los Angeles Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year and 2020 Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year.

It is also a partnership between a pair of like-minded parties looking to maximize not only the on-court talents of the star guard but also achieve her off-court goals of community building.

“Community was kind of our first conversation,” Watkins said. “That’s what we shared in common, just pushing my narrative and how I want to impact not only the basketball side but my community and things outside of basketball.”

For as lofty as Watkins’ ambitions are, for as many medals as she has on the mantle, the junior’s basketball story revolves around the community of Watts. The 2.5-square-mile, predominately minority Los Angeles neighborhood consists of a population with more than a quarter below the poverty line and only slightly more than half holding a high school diploma. Generations of her family have been dedicated to the advancement of the community, from her great-grandfather Ted Watkins establishing the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to her own parents instilling supportive and cooperative values in Watkins from a young age.

Watkins wants to help the community gain financial literacy and education opportunities. She wants to inspire other young girls to persevere through adversity. She wants to bring Fortune 500 companies into the area. Watkins isn’t waiting until she graduates to get to work, slyly saying to “stay tuned” for what’s next.

“My angle is to inspire my community and become a frontier for women’s basketball,” she said. “We don’t have as many resources as others, so just speaking up and being a part of that story of women’s basketball.”

Her voice shined with excitement when talking about working with youth basketball camps each summer.

“It’s so dope to just be around younger players and see how much passion they already have. It’s amazing,” she said. “It inspires me to become greater.”

Her tone lit up more when thinking about those moments than when speaking on her own accomplishments. More so than her goals of winning high school championships and awards such as the Gatorade and MaxPreps players of the year. She rattled off her long-term ambitions in the opposite of chronological order — Hall of Fame, WNBA player, College Player of the Year, All-American, championships. She hasn’t started narrowing down colleges yet, and her long list of college offers is essentially a who’s-who of top programs. Name a team, and it probably has an interest in the five-star athlete.

“To summarize that, just being the best version of me I can be on and off the court,” she said. Watkins paused, gave a small laugh, took another beat to try to find the right words so as to not sound immodest, and then added, “Becoming an icon, I guess.”

“Her ability to be someone that young women and young men look up to as a player … She just has that it,” Paul said. “She approaches things the right way, she’s very astute and very understanding of her surroundings at a very young age. I’ve been around that before, so I know what that looks like. I’m excited for what’s up ahead.”

Watkins joins Klutch at a pivotal time for collegiate sports and women’s basketball. The WNBA has started to blossom, the most recent evidence being a $75 million capital raise. College athletes are beginning to cash in on NIL offers, and Watkins is in a position to become the icon she aspires to be as she drives the sport forward.

“She’s always working on enhancing her basketball IQ and skills, so she’s always evolving in that space. She’s always working on being a good person and understanding what it is to have morals and values and purpose in life, so she’s going to evolve in that space as well,” said her mother, Sari Watkins. “She knows how to put her goals in perspective and go after them. I think that it’s kind of already been written by God, to be honest, and all she has to do is continue to stay the course and work her tail off and everything that she works so hard for, she’s gonna get.”

“Juju is always thinking out the box, so she’s never trying to do something that’s within norm. She’s always gonna take a different approach,” said her father, Robert Watkins. “She’s always going to be thinking, how can I do this to change the game on a different level? I think that’s what it’s gong to take to evolve the women’s game and I think that’s why she’s impacting and she gets so much love on the NBA and the WNBA.”

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