Two impressive rookies will share the court Friday night when the Atlanta Dream host the Washington Mystics in College Park, Ga.
Atlanta guard Rhyne Howard is already receiving star billing after five career games. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft leads the WNBA with a 20.4 scoring average.
Washington forward Shakira Austin, the No. 3 overall pick, is coming off the first 20-point outing of her career.
Both teams are off to 4-1 starts, with the Dream looking highly potent while they averaged 93 points in sweeping back-to-back road games over the Indiana Fever.
Howard averaged 26 points in the two wins — including a 33-point effort Sunday — as she continues to comfortably fit as a go-to force in the offense.
“She is coming in and taking advantage of the things she does well,” Atlanta coach Tanisha Wright said. “She’s not overdoing it, she’s not underdoing it. She is playing exactly the same way she’s always played.”
Howard, a three-time first-team All-American at Kentucky, is tied for the WNBA lead with 17 3-pointers.
Austin played college basketball at Ole Miss before landing with the Mystics. She is averaging 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots as well as shooting 63.3 percent from the field.
When Myisha Hines-Allen departed with a right quad injury during Tuesday’s 84-68 road win over the Dallas Wings, Austin was called upon to play 29 minutes, and she made 9 of 11 field-goal attempts while collecting eight rebounds.
“She’s playing aggressive,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said of Austin. “She’s worked on her shooting every day. She gets us going because her defense covers for everybody.”
Hines-Allen was listed as questionable for Friday, so Austin could be in the starting lineup.
Washington ranks second in the league in scoring at 84.2 points per game. Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne leads the Mystics in scoring (18.5) and rebounds (6.5), but she will sit out Friday’s game to rest her back.
For Atlanta, Cheyenne Parker (11.2) is the only other player scoring in double digits besides Howard.
The Mystics have won seven of the past eight meetings.
–Field Level Media