After a dominant two years at the Flagship, Ole Miss center Shakira Austin is headed to Washington, D.C., as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.
Austin heads to the Washington Mystics as the sixth-ever player to be drafted from the Ole Miss Women’s Basketball program. The 6 foot, 5 inch center originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia, spent her first two collegiate years at the University of Maryland and landed at Ole Miss for her final years of eligibility as ESPN’s No. 1 transfer.
“(Broadcaster) Ryan (Ruocco), how many times during the Ole Miss games we did this season did you and I look at one another and say, ‘Wow, that’s a pro move,’ when Shakira Austin did something on the floor?” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo asked during the draft broadcast. “She is 6 foot 5, long and strong, runs the floor and can handle in the open floor. She is really dangerous when she catches around 15 feet. Her ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, she can hit from there as well. She is a player who not only can have an instant impact on a roster… she’s the type of player who has a high ceiling and can grow into a perennial all-star.”
Austin’s two years under Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin brought great success to the program and university, and Austin earned multiple accolades on and off the court. In the 2021 season, Austin led the Rebels in points (503), rebounds (245), blocks (48) and steals (43). Her career-high 29 points against Arkansas helped Ole Miss reach the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.
“First off, I can’t wait to see her outfit because I already know she’s going to slay,” Coach Yo said prior to the draft. “Secondly, this is just incredible. You know, I remember vividly Shakira saying, ‘Coach, I’m going top three, or I don’t want to go at all.’ I’m just truly proud for her. I’m proud for our women’s basketball players so that they can be inspired. This is just tons of emotions for me and I know the Rebel Nation.”
In her final season in red and blue, Austin led Ole Miss to a record-breaking season, making it to the SEC Semifinals and NCAA Tournament while leading the team in points (486), rebounds (248) and blocks (66). Austin surpassed the 1,000 career rebound mark during the 74-54 Rebel victory over Texas A&M on Jan 17.
Austin won the Gillom Trophy Award in each of her seasons at Ole Miss, earning herself the title of the best women’s basketball player in the state of Mississippi, first Rebel to ever do so. Her key role in helping turn around the program also earned Austin an Honorable Mention All-American and First Team All-SEC in consecutive seasons.
Her dominant presence will be missed at the SJB Pavillion, but the Washington Mystics are receiving a defensive leader in Austin, as she will enter a team who finished ninth in league with a record of 12-20 last season. Austin will likely step into the role behind Elizabeth Williams, the 2015 WNBA Draft No. 4 overall pick out of Duke.
The addition of Austin will provide Head Coach Mike Thibault with much needed depth across multiple defensive positions. She also has the potential to move to the perimeter and give the Mystics offense a little flair. Normally, top-three draft picks are tasked with coming straight into a program and being the No. 1 difference maker. Despite the Mystics’ record last season, however, they are a championship-contending team when healthy. Austin is likely to be subbed into the rotation as a seven or eight. The opportunity to be slowly adapted into a new program will serve Austin well in the long run, as someone who is likely to have a long career in the WNBA.
“I feel like I got lucky,” Austin said to the media after her selection. “To be in a position to learn from vets and people who you just look up to as role players, it’s just an amazing feeling. I feel like this opportunity is going to bring the best out of me, and I’m ready to just start a career in D.C. back home. It’s just an honor.”
Austin will head to D.C. for training before the Mystics start their season on May 6 against the Indiana Fever at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington D.C.
“I’m going to have a long career, a successful career,” Austin said following her historic draft. “And coming into the Mystics I feel like it’s just the best opportunity possible for me to learn—and take my time—but also learn from the best. That’s a championship-level team, and that’s where I’m meant to be.”