Ole Miss women’s basketball junior Shakira Austin has been tabbed as one of the Top-10 candidates for the 2021 Lisa Leslie Award, released by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Friday.
Austin has been a force of nature for Ole Miss in 2020-21, averaging 17.1 points (7th SEC), 8.1 rebounds (11th SEC) and 1.5 blocks per game (6th SEC), and she is shooting 53.7 percent overall on the season – the fifth-best clip in the conference and 34th-best nationally. Austin has scored in double digits in all but one contest through 14 games this year, the lone outlier being a six-point but 11-rebound outing in a narrow loss at No. 14 Mississippi State (60-56) on Jan. 10.
The Lisa Leslie Award – named after the three-time All-American, 1994 National Player of the Year and Class of 2015 Hall of Famer from USC – is in its fourth year, and recognizes the top centers in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball. In March, five finalists will be presented to Leslie and the Hall of Fame’s selection committee, which is composed of top women’s college basketball personnel, including media members, head coaches, sports information directors and Hall of Famers. The Lisa Leslie Award will be presented on April 9, 2021.
On the year, Austin has also scored at least 20 points six times – including four in a row from Dec. 15 to Jan. 7, making her the first Rebel to score at least 20 in four straight since Bianca Thomas did so twice during the 2009-10 season. In that stretch, Austin averaged 20.5 points and 9.2 boards while shooting 50 percent overall and 33 percent from beyond the arc – a new wrinkle to her game as a Rebel after only attempting one three-pointer in her two seasons at Maryland.
Austin has recently made history elsewhere following two double-doubles at LSU (12 points, 12 rebounds) and vs. No. 14 Kentucky (21 points, 12 rebounds), becoming the first Rebel to record consecutive double-doubles since Shandricka Sessom did in December 2015 and the first in consecutive SEC games since Tia Faleru in February and March of 2015.
In the Rebels upset win over the Wildcats, Austin put up 17 points and seven boards in the first half.
She is also nearing several career milestones, currently sitting at 924 career points, 663 rebounds and 153 blocks. She is currently one of just six active SEC players with 900 career points and 650 career rebounds, and she stands as one of just two with 900 points, 650 rebounds and 150 career blocks alongside LSU’s Faustine Aifuwa.
In her career, Austin has record 20 double-doubles (five as a Rebel), 49 double-digit games (13 as a Rebel), 33 games with multiple blocks and 28 games with at least 10 rebounds. Austin, ESPN’s No. 1 rated transfer this season, was a significant piece of the puzzle at Maryland before coming to Oxford. At Maryland, Austin played in 66 games and started in 47 during two Big Ten championship runs in 2019 and 2020, during which the Terrapins went a combined 57-9 overall.
Along the way, the former No. 3 national high school prospect and McDonald’s All-American broke Maryland’s single-season blocks record with 89 her freshman season and was named Second-Team All-Big Ten her sophomore season. In two seasons at Maryland, Austin averaged 10.1 points. 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 47.2 percent overall. She also has 15 career double-doubles and has had multiple blocks in 26 total games.