(Evan Yu/Just Women’s Sports)

Just Women’s Sports recently sat down with Ole Miss center Shakira Austin to talk about her journey to becoming one of the most versatile players in the WNBA draft in a new series called “Next Up.”

Austin, who spent two years at Maryland before transferring to Ole Miss, was the No. 3 pick in the draft Monday. She was selected by the Washington Mystics.

In speaking with Just Women’s Sports, Austin says she began to work with Mike McMiller, who put her through some of the toughest workouts she’s faced and helped her up her game.

“The work ethic that he drove into me elevated my game from high school to college,” Austin says.

In deciding to go to Maryland, Austin says that she wanted to play close to home and bring something back to her hometown.

“I just felt like it was the right place. I do believe that it was a good fit at that time,” she says, adding that things didn’t go the way that she expected. The decision to leave, Austin says, was “heartbreaking.”

“I felt like I had to make a decision for myself to really move on and hope to find a better environment that will let me just expand my game,” she says. “It was a tough decision leaving, I felt like that was my home.”

Ole Miss had won just seven games total, none of them in the conference, in the year before Austin traveled to Oxford. The team presented a stark contrast to the Maryland team that had won the Big Ten tournament in 2020 and had been regular-season champions in each of her two years.

But the year she arrived at Ole Miss, the team won 15 games. Last season, the team won 23 and made the NCAA tournament. The senior averaged 15.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to lead the team but was even better in the SEC tournament, averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 points en route to the semifinals.

“Nobody has done what I was able to do with a team like Ole Miss,” she said. “People don’t take risks like that, and put their careers on the line, for a program. I feel like if any coach was to look at the draftees, they would be able to see that I was able to do something different.

“At the same time, when you look at what I’m able to do on the floor, people who are successful right now in the league look like me.”

Watch the whole video on our YouTube channel: