5 things to know about Mystics’ No. 3 pick Shakira Austin originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Mystics made a significant addition to their frontcourt Monday night, selecting Ole Miss center Shakira Austin with the No. 3 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Austin, listed at 6-foot-5, will have the chance to develop her game as a member of Washington’s rotation while the Mystics attempt to improve on their 12-20 record from a year ago.
Here are five things to know about the Mystics’ incoming rookie.
No stranger to the DMV
Austin was born in Fredericksburg, Va., and spent her high school years living in King George and Stafford counties. After attending James Monroe High School as a freshman, she transferred to Colonial Forge for two years before finishing up her high school career at Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) under former George Washington University head coach Mike Bozeman.
Even before transferring to Riverdale Baptist, Austin had committed to attending Maryland. She spent her first two NCAA seasons with the Terrapins, averaging 10.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while helping lead the program to consecutive Big Ten regular season titles.
Basketball genes in the family
The first member of the Austin family to go pro was Austin’s uncle, Waverly. Following two years at Oregon that included a run to the Sweet 16 in 2013, the 6-foot-11 forward took his skills overseas to play in Germany. Austin credits her uncle with helping establish her strong defensive mindset.
Height runs in the family as well. Waverly’s mother — and Shakira’s grandmother — Ilona stands tall at about 6-foot-5, according to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Austin will join Elena Delle Donne as the tallest players on the Mystics’ roster this season.
A scout’s dream profile
Even in high school, Austin was widely recognized as one of the top talents in the country. She was a five-star recruit coming out of Riverdale Baptist, landing at No. 4 on the 2018 espnW HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings. ESPN’s Dan Olson described her as an “ultra-athletic big-forward with skilled interior game” while noting her skills on defense and in transition.
When Austin transferred to Ole Miss two years later, ESPN ranked her No. 1 on its list of players in the transfer portal. She then went No. 3 overall in the WNBA Draft after the Mystics traded back from the top spot. Head coach Mike Thibault told The Washington Post he “felt we got a player who was capable of being the first pick.”
New foundation of success in Oxford
When Austin arrived to Ole Miss, the Rebels were coming off a 7-23 season in which they went 0-16 in SEC play. She was betting on herself, wagering she could take the program back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. After a 15-12 season in 2020-21, Austin did just that.
Leading the team in points (15.2 ppg), rebounds (9.0 rpg) and blocks (2.1 bpg), Austin guided Ole Miss to a 23-9 campaign that included wins over ranked opponents South Florida, Kentucky and Florida. The seventh-seeded Rebels were bounced in the first round by No. 10 seed South Dakota, but the season was still one of the most successful that the program had seen in decades.
Blocks, rebounds come in bunches
In her four collegiate seasons, Austin had 11 games with five or more blocks. She set an SEC tournament record with six blocked shots against Florida in the first round of the conference tourney this past season, though her career high was eight set back at Maryland as a freshman.
Austin got her NCAA career off to a strong start when, coming off the bench, she tallied 21 rebounds against Coppin State in 24 minutes. It was one of 27 games she would record at least 12 boards. Austin led her respective teams in rebounding three out of four years, falling just short of Kaila Charles — now with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun — for the distinction as a sophomore in College Park.