Local sports fans have the opportunity to watch two of the best girls’ high school basketball players in the country this afternoon at Centenary’s Gold Dome.
“Talk about an honor for northern Louisiana,” Parkway head coach Gloria Williams says of the Big South Shootout: One Night Only, Vol. One event that pits the Lady Panthers against the Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) Trailblazers, No. 2 in the nation in the SBLive Power preseason rankings.
The 4 o’clock matchup will give area fans a rare opportunity to see two of the top-rated girls in the U.S. go head-to-head when Parkway’s Mikaylah Williams and Sierra Canyon’s Judea “Juju” Watkins take the court for the early-season matchup.
Williams, considered the consensus No. 1 women’s basketball recruit in the Class of 2023, has signed to play for LSU. After leading the Lady Panthers to the 2022 Class 5A state championship game, she was named Miss Basketball by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, Louisiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year and one of five finalists for the Naismith National High School Girls Players of the Year while boasting a 4.0 GPA.
Williams — who averaged 22.8 points, 8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals as a junior at Parkway last season — won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2022 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup, where she was also named MVP. In addition, Williams was named one of 12 players on the 2022 USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team, which took home a gold medal after competing in the FIBA U17 World Cup in Hungary over the summer.
Watkins — who recently signed with USC over finalists South Carolina and Stanford — is a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball and the state’s reigning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She averaged 24.8 points and 10.3 rebounds to lead the Trailblazers to a 30-2 record and the California state championship.
“She’s a generational talent,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Kamaki told ESPN. “I don’t think we’re going to see somebody else like her.”
Both Williams and Watkins have been named to the 2022-23 Preseason MaxPreps All-America Girls’ Basketball team – along with Breya Cunningham of La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day, Milaysia Fulwiley of Keenan (Columbia, SC), and Jadyn Donovan of Sidwell Friends (Washington, DC). Cunningham has signed with Arizona, Fulwiley with South Carolina, and Donavan with Duke.
The Lady Panthers — who bring a 3-2 record into today’s game — are coming off a road trip to Arkansas this week that included a 78-68 loss to Conway (Ark.), ranked No. 11 in the nation by SBLive. The Trailblazers are 2-0.
Today’s game is the first in a five-city stop by the Big Hoops Shootout organization, which matches top high school teams from around the nation. Other games will take place in Fayetteville (N.C.), Tyrone (Ga.), Glean Head (N.Y.), and Cayce (S.C.).
“I received a phone call (from Big Hoops Shootout) after the season ended,” Parkway coach Gloria Williams says when asked how today’s event came about. “We talked back and forth and, once we found a common date, it was finalized in July.”
Going up against top-notch competition early in the season is part of the Parkway coaching staff’s plan to prepare the Lady Panthers for a run at a state title.
“In order to be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” says Williams.
The Lady Panthers return four of their five starters from last season’s state runner-up team but will be without sophomore Savannah Wilson, who has been lost for the season with an ACL tear. In addition to Williams, Parkway will have junior Chloe Larry (who had a game-high 34 points in the 2022 state championship game) and Ty’lissa Henderson, who has recently returned after an injury.
General admission tickets for today’s game are $20 and can be purchased at bighoopsshootout.ticketleap.com. Children 5-and-under will be admitted free.
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