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If The Crown Fits: Rhyne Howard

If the crown fits, wear it, and the National Player of the Year crown fits perfectly atop Rhyne Howard’s 6-foot-2 frame as the junior guard is having another amazing year for the Top-15 Kentucky women's basketball team. Often quiet off the court, Howard lets her game speak for itself on the court; and why not when you have a game that speaks as loudly as hers?

After a sensational sophomore season where she was nearly an unanimous All-American selection, and finalist for the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy and USBWA Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year Award, Howard has picked up right where she left off.

This preseason, Howard was tabbed one of the heavy frontrunners for the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy and Wade Trophy, which all honor the national player of the year. She was also tabbed to the Cheryl Miller Award Small Forward of the Year Watch List and became the school’s first preseason Associated Press All-American, which was by unanimous selection.

Hungry, Elite, Focused, Talented...

In no particular order, those are the words most use to describe Rhyne Howard and she is no doubt more hungry and focused in 2020-21 than ever before. After ranking second nationally last season with 23.4 points per game – including fifth nationally with 633 total points and 10th in the nation with 3.1 3-pointers per game – Howard was not a unanimous All-American as the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named her All-America Honorable Mention thus not making her a finalist for the WBCA Wade Trophy – the only national player of the year award she was not a finalist.

Howard, who was also not voted a McDonald’s All-American in high school, has used it as motivation. So far, it’s been business as usual as Howard is averaging a team-best 20.4 points per game with 7.1 rebounds per game. She is second on the team with 37 assists and 18 steals. Howard has three double-doubles this season, and has led UK in scoring five times and in rebounding six times.

Unselfish: A Team Player

What has been great about the 2020-21 version of Howard is how she continues to find ways to make her teammates better. Last year, the Wildcats didn’t have a ton of offensive weapons and needed Howard to score 20+ every game, but that is not how the 2020-21 Wildcats are built. Four different players have been the team’s leading scorer already this season, while Kentucky has had three or more players in double figures in every game but one, including four or more in six games. Last season, UK only had four or more players with 10+ points in just three games.

If Howard needs to score to help the team win, she will. If it's rebounding the team needs as someone else is hot, she will attack the glass. Need someone to run the point and control the offense? Rhyne will be there for the assist. Defense will help the team win? She has got that tool, too, with a great instinct on the defensive end.

UK Head Coach Kyra Elzy: “Rhyne is the best player in the country and she can take over at any time, but what I love about Rhyne is that she is so unselfish. She knows how to get her teammates involved and put them in scoring situations. She has a high basketball IQ and is a great passer. When it is time to take over, she will do it. But when it is time to make big plays, we put the ball in her hands and let her do what she does best. She doesn’t get too high or too low, she keeps us steady. She was calm in the huddle and that is why she is a leader for us.”

Be The Best, Beat The Best

To be the best, you have to beat the best and Rhyne Howard has performed her best against the best teams in the nation this season and last season.

This season, Kentucky has played six top-25 ranked teams and those are her six best games this season; vs. No. 13 Indiana – 22 points, 3 3PFGs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, at No. 24 DePaul – 18 points, 12 rebounds, 5 steals, vs. No. 10 Arkansas – 24 points, 4 3PFGs, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, at No. 12 Mississippi State – 33 points, 4 3PFGs, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, at No. 8 Texas A&M – 22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and vs. No. 5 South Carolina – 32 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block.

Howard has played 24 career games against ranked teams and is averaging 21.3 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game in those contests. She is hitting 43.7 percent from the field, 34.6 percent from 3 and 73.8 percent from the free-throw line. This season in six ranked games, Howard is hitting 52.3 percent from the field, 37.8 percent from 3, 80.6 percent from the charity stripe and averaging 25.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game with 21 assists, 11 steals and three blocks.

The Record Book: Consider It Broken

The career record book at UK is about to be a Rhyne Howard memoir as the guard is putting up numbers the program has never seen before. Howard has scored 1,362 career points sitting 17th in UK history in points scored, and she needs 71 more points to tie for 16th and 140 more points to move into the top 10. She became the second-fastest player in program history to reach 1,000 points last season in her 53rd career game.

On top of inching closer to the top 20 in scoring, Howard ranks second all-time in scoring average with 19.7 points per game, fourth in 3-pointers made with 182, third in 3-point field-goal percentage at 38.2 percent, 10th in rebounding average at 6.6 rebounds per game and eighth in steals per game with 2.14.

In 67 Career Games, Howard Has...

  • Hit at least one 3 in 61 career games, including eight games this season.
  • Made three or more 3s in 32 career games, including six games this season.
  • Made five or more 3s in 11 career games.
  • Scored 10+ points in 61 career games, including nine games this season.
  • Scored 15+ points in 50 career games, including seven games this season.
  • Scored 20+ points in 36 career games, including five games this season.
  • Scored 25+ points in 20 career games, including twice this season.
  • Scored 30+ points in 4 career games, including twice this season.
  • Led UK in scoring in 43 career games, including five times this season.
  • Led UK in rebounding in 36 games career games, including four games this season.
  • Led UK in assists in 22 career games, including six games this season.
  • Led UK in steals in 23 career games.
  • Led UK in blocks in 23 career games, including two games this season.

2019-20: Sophomore Season

It was an amazing sophomore season for Howard, who was a first-team All-America honoree by the AP, USBWA and Wooden Award and a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Cheryl Miller Award and Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year award. Howard led the Wildcats and ranked second nationally with 23.4 points per game. The guard also led UK with 6.5 rebounds per game and 62 steals, while she was second on the team with 29 blocks and third on the team with 68 assists. Howard hit 84 3-pointers last season, which was the most in program history in a single season, topping the previous record of 81 set by Sara Potts in 2004-05. Her 3.1 3-pointers per game in 2019-20 ranked top-10 nationally, while her 633 total points ranked fifth nationally. Howard’s 23.4 scoring average was the most for a UK player under Matthew Mitchell and the fourth-best in program history.

Howard placed her name all over the Kentucky record book in 2019-20 as the only player in program history to score 25 or more points in five straight games while she was the second player to score 20 or more points in eight straight games. Howard had two stretches during the season of 20 or more points in eight straight games, including each of her last eight games played after missing three games with a finger injury.

Two of the top-12 scoring performances in program history came last season by Howard. The first was her 37 points in UK’s win vs. Tennessee followed by a school-record tying 43 points at Alabama. She is the only player in program history to score 37+ points in consecutive games and the first to hit seven or more 3-pointers in consecutive games. Howard earned six double-doubles last season and has 11 for her career.