Shakira Austin Makes Top-10 List for Lisa Leslie Award
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Ole Miss women’s basketball junior Shakira Austin has been named 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.
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, and is one of five that comprise the Naismith Starting 5 each season alongside the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award and the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award, in addition to the Men’s Starting Five.
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.
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. Austin was a force to reckon with in Ole Miss’ upset win over the Wildcats on Feb. 4, scoring 17 points and hauling in seven rebounds in the first half alone.
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 Ole Miss this past spring and being ruled immediately eligible on Oct. 29. There, she 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.
Previous winners of the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award include Aliyah Boston, South Carolina (2020), Megan Gustafson, Iowa (2019) and A’ja Wilson, South Carolina (2018).
For more information on the 2021 Lisa Leslie Award and the latest updates, log onto www.hoophallawards.com and follow @hoophall and #LeslieAward on Twitter and Instagram. Starting Five Fan Voting presented by Dell Technologies goes live today, February 5, at 12 p.m. CT on HoophallAwards.com.
2021 Lisa Leslie Award Top-10 Candidates
Queen Egbo, Baylor
Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn
Ayoka Lee, Kansas State
Elissa Cunane, NC State
Janelle Bailey, North Carolina
Shakira Austin, Ole Miss
Nancy Mulkey, Rice
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Kamilla Cardoso, Syracuse
Charli Collier, Texas
*Players can play their way onto and off of the list at any point in the 2020-21 season
About Lisa Leslie:
Widely regarded as the best player in the country during her senior year of high school, Leslie decided to play basketball close to home at University of Southern California. While at USC, she set Pac-10 records for scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, earning All-Pac-10 honors each of her four seasons. In 1991, she was named national freshman of the year and went on to earn All-American Honors the following three seasons. In her senior season, she won multiple national player of the year awards, including the Naismith College Player of the Year and the WBCA Player of the Year. In the summer of 1997, the Women’s National Basketball Association was launched and with it, Lisa Leslie became a household name. The Los Angeles Sparks landed the hometown star, who would go on to help them win two world championships. As an eight-time All-Star and three-time MVP, Leslie became the face of the WNBA. In 2002, she became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game. Leslie retired as the all-time leading rebounder in WNBA history and was an eight-time First Team All-WNBA performer. Internationally, Leslie won four gold medals in Olympic competition. Since retiring from professional play, Leslie has worked as a sports commentator and analyst for several networks, while exploring fashion modeling and acting as well.
About the WBCA:
Founded in 1981, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association is the professional association for coaches of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels of competition. The WBCA offers educational resources that coaches need to help make themselves better leaders, teachers and mentors to their players; provides opportunities for coaches to connect with peers in the profession; serves as the unifying voice of a diverse community of coaches to those organizations that control the game; and celebrates those coaches, players and other individuals who excel each year and contribute to the advancement of the sport. For more information, visit us online: www.WBCA.org, follow @wbca1981 or call 1-770-279-8027.
About the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame:
Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where basketball was born, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting, preserving and celebrating the game of basketball at every level – men and women, amateur and professional players, coaches and contributors, both domestically and internationally. The Hall of Fame museum is home to more than 400 inductees and over 40,000 square feet of basketball history. Nearly 200,000 people visit the Hall of Fame museum each year to learn about the game, experience the interactive exhibits and test their skills on the Jerry Colangelo “Court of Dreams.” Best known for its annual marquee Enshrinement Ceremony honoring the game’s elite, the Hall of Fame also operates over 70 high school and collegiate competitions annually throughout the country and abroad. For more information on the Basketball Hall of Fame organization, its museum and events, visit www.hoophall.com, follow @hoophall or call 1-877-4HOOPLA.