May 27, 2024


That’s the word being used again and again to describe the newest girls’ basketball standout to arrive in California.

Jerzy Robinson is 6 feet tall with bulging shoulder muscles from having lifted weights since she was 9. A year ago as a freshman, she led Desert Vista in Phoenix to a state championship and was named tournament MVP at the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championships after scoring 24 points and getting 14 rebounds in the title game.

She moved to Woodland Hills and enrolled at Sierra Canyon for name, image and likeness opportunities, which are not allowed in Arizona. She signed with Klutch Sports, the same organization that guided Sierra Canyon’s star of last season, Juju Watkins, who is now at USC.

“She’s the No. 1 sophomore in the country,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said. “She fits the billing. She’s got strength, she can shoot, she can score inside, she’s physical. I think Jerzy is far ahead where most kids are as a sophomore.”

Robinson is a familiar figure in the Southland. She has played with Sierra Canyon senior Mackenly Randolph in club competitions and her summer club coach was Stan Delus, head coach of defending Open Division state champion Etiwanda.

“I do know what to expect,” Delus said of Robinson. “She’s a very talented player, very strong, very crafty. She’s tough. She’s the real deal.”

Delus said she has not reached “Juju status yet,” which might be the only good news for opponents. The question is how long will it take.

“They’re two very different players,” Komaki said. “There’s similarities in terms of having status as elite competitors and work ethic.”

Robinson’s father, Darnell, played football at Oregon State. Jerzy played soccer, volleyball, recreation league basketball, flag football and ran track as a youth. She didn’t start playing competitive basketball until she was 13. And she didn’t welcome her introduction to lifting weights.

“I’m going to be honest. I hated it,” she said. “Then I saw how it was making me better. I guess that makes going against older girls and higher competition easier because I work hard in the weight room. It’s an asset and advantage for me on the court.”

Sierra Canyon senior Mackenly Randolph

Mackenly Randolph of Sierra Canyon is a four-year starter.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Sierra Canyon won the Southern Section Open Division championship and had a 31-game winning streak until losing its only game last season to Etiwanda, 55-54, in the regional final. Komaki believes this season’s team can be better defensively with Robinson’s contributions. And Robinson knows that Etiwanda will be the Trailblazers’ toughest competition again.

“I’ve very aware,” she said.

In returnees Randolph and Izela Arenas, the daughters of former NBA players Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas, Sierra Canyon will have a pair of four-year starters. Both have improved immensely over the course of their high school careers.

Kennedy Smith of Etiwanda is a four-year starter.

Kennedy Smith of Etiwanda helped her team win the prestigious championship at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.

(Nick Koza)

Etiwanda is the team to beat with the return of standouts Kennedy Smith, Aliyahna Morris and Mykelle Richards, plus the addition of Mater Dei transfer Shaena Brew and 6-foot-3 Las Vegas Centennial transfer Grace Knox.

Asked if Sierra Canyon or Etiwanda will be beaten, Harvard-Westlake coach Melissa Hearlihy said: “On paper, no.”

Mater Dei, Sage Hill, Bishop Montgomery, Brentwood, Ontario Christian and Rosary are among the other top schools in girls basketball this season. Ontario Christian will have the No. 1 freshman in Kaleena Smith.

In the City Section, Westchester, led by Reigne Waugh, and Birmingham should battle it out for the Open Division championship.

Just watching Robinson’s development this season should be fascinating. And wait for her food reviews.

Robinson has done plenty of traveling while playing basketball around the world, having visited New Zealand, Mexico, Fiji and American Samoa, among other locales.

“I love to travel,” she said. “If I wasn’t playing basketball, I’d love to be a traveling food critic.”

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