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2022 WNBA Draft: Shakira Austin is ready to lead Mystic defense

Shakira Austin can get it done on both sides of the ball, but it all starts on defense for her.

WNBA Draft 2022 Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mystics had the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA draft but opted to trade down. They ended up with picks No. 3 and 14, and with the third selected Shakira Austin. The addition of the Ole Miss big will bring size, physicality, and defensive attributes that will help the Mystics optimize their defense.

Austin didn’t have a traditional path to the WNBA. She started her collegiate career at Maryland and after two seasons decided to transfer to Ole Miss. The risk was evident. She joined a weaker team and might not have gotten the opportunity to develop to her fullest potential. However, the transfer paid off. During her first season at Ole Miss, Austin had a career year, averaging career highs in minutes (28.7) and points (18.6).

Her second season at Ole Miss only brought more success, with Austin establishing herself as a dominant big in the SEC and earning All-SEC First Team honors. She didn’t just have individual success; the team made it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. The dance didn’t last long, with the Rebels losing to South Dakota in the first round, but ending a 15-year drought was huge for the university. When she was selected third, Austin added to her legacy by becoming only the sixth player from Ole Miss to be drafted into the WNBA.

Austin has good offensive production, but her defensive prowess is what makes her a WNBA talent. She’s demonstrative on the glass (averaging 8.6 rebounds per game), strong enough to defend back-to-the-basket forwards and quick enough to handle switches on smaller guards. This defensive versatility should make every Mystics fan excited about what Austin can become learning behind Elizabeth Williams and under coach Mike Thibault.

The Mystics won it all in 2019 and have high expectations for themselves even though they missed the playoffs last year. They are hoping that with the addition of Austin, they’re one step closer to contention. We’ll get our first look at Austin in a Mystics uniform on Sunday when training camp opens in Washington.