The past six weeks have been a mind-blowing blur for Shakira Austin.
Mystics rookie Shakira Austin needs exam to graduate
Austin was training with his new team, the Washington Mystics, a week later and making his WNBA preseason debut six days later. She was also taking exams and trying to finish her degree all the time.
WNBA rookies face a unique challenge in that the NCAA tournament, draft, training camp and start of the season all take place within weeks. The league game took place on April 3 and the league ended on May 6, with schools still finishing lessons during this time.
That part was actually the biggest pain for Austin, who is closing in on a degree in multidisciplinary studies with a focus on psychology, sports management and journalism. She still had an exam to take last week, but will have to take a summer course to graduate. Austin was supposed to be over after the spring, but the busy basketball schedule forced her to miss an in-person exam for a psychology course. She received a zero which forced her to fail the course.
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“It’s been tough,” Austin said. “Some teachers are really understanding. But some of them have their views on athletes…I guess.
“She didn’t allow me to take it back. I needed a medical excuse or something. So it sucks for this one, but the others [were] in line.”
Austin could easily recoup those final credits in the future, but the degree has a special meaning. She will become the first in her family to graduate from college and they want to see her take this step. The new plan is to march in August – although the launch ceremony has not been set and could conflict with a Mystics playoff race.
“An exam. …Are you serious?!” Austin laughed. “Guess I wouldn’t have to be any more stressed than I already am trying to cram in that last credit.
“My mom, she couldn’t be at my first high school graduation. I want her to do this one. It’s been a big, big thing for me and just for my family. They are super excited about everything I do. So that will just top it all off.
The family should be excited as the Virginia native, who played high school in Prince George’s County and her first two years in Maryland, returns to the DC area. The situation is the best of both worlds for the 6-foot-5, 190-pound player. There’s little pressure as she joins a veteran team with a job rotation of two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne, WNBA second-team pick Myisha Hines-Allen, all-defensive team pick and from former Most Improved Player Elizabeth Williams and the all-rounder Tianna Hawkins. . However, there will be opportunities for the opening minutes as Williams will miss the start of the season to complete his away obligations and the team will manage Delle Donne’s load to be on the safe side with a back that has undergone two operations.
“She can team up with all of them,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “She’ll kind of have this LaToya [Sanders] role from a few years ago where you can mix and match your posts and she can play with all the heavy hitters.
The first two preseason games were off to a good start as Austin posted 12 rebounds and six blocks in Game 1 against the Dream and eight points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and a steal against the Lynx. The initial objective is to bring energy in the form of defense and to bounce back with the idea that the attack will come. Austin led the Rebels with 15.2 points per game last season, so she knows how to get the ball in the basket, but the Mystics won’t be running specific plays for her at the same pace as at Oxford. These opportunities will arise, even if the base is already there.
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“Good mobility, balance, athleticism, all those things that are just important to leveling up,” ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. “She can create from the rebound. She has a mid-range pull-up, out-of-position rebounds, good shot blocker.
“I think the thing with Shakira is that she’s made it clear that she wants a more perimeter-focused position on the court, and I think she might have to be ready to play a bit more. on the inside to begin his WNBA career and further develop on the outside as the game progresses.
Austin seems like a natural fit for the Mystics and represents something of a bridge. It is an organization in win-now mode after missing the playoffs in 2021 due to a tie-break. She’s almost a luxury for the current team with the hopes of Austin becoming a star down the road.
For now, she’s growing under the tutelage of veterans like Delle Donne, Hines-Allen and Hawkins and has Sanders as her positional coach. All four have championship rings.
“She’s a little clumsy but I’m clumsy too,” Hawkins said. “But she’s a little clumsier than me.” She is awesome. Eager to learn. And like I said, she loves to compete, so it’s going to take her a long way with this group.
Natasha Cloud added: “That’s the scary thing about her, she has a ceiling that she hasn’t even scratched the surface of yet..”