LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the second straight season, University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Rhyne Howard has been named a first-team All-America honoree by The Associated Press as the organization recognized the Wildcat guard on the five-member team Wednesday.
Last season, Howard became the first player in program history to earn AP First-Team All-America honors since the organization started recognizing teams in 1995. Last year’s honor made Howard the fifth Kentucky player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from a major organization, joining Pam Browning (1977, Street and Smith's), Valerie Still (1981, 82, 83, Street and Smith's), Victoria Dunlap (2010, USBWA and WBCA) and A'dia Mathies (2012, USBWA). She is now the second player in program history to earn first-team honors from a major organization back-to-back seasons, joining Kentucky Athletics and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Valerie Still.
“Rhyne Howard is the best player in the nation and as we have talked about all year, it is her versatility and what she is able to do offensively and defensively that gives her that title,” UK head coach Kyra Elzy said. “I think what makes Rhyne special is she can play the one through the five on both ends of the floor. She can score at all three levels and defend at all three levels. There are not many players in the nation that can say that. She also makes the people around her better, upping her averages this year in rebounding, assists and steals. That is what puts her game on different level. I am so proud of how hard she has worked this year. She has matured into a vocal leader for this team and because of that her teammates want to do well for her, as well.”
The honor joins a long list of honors for Howard in recent weeks as she has been established as one of the top players in women’s basketball. In the last few weeks, Howard has been named a finalist for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award, one of 11 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year, on the national ballot for the Wooden Award and a finalist for the Dawn Staley Award. The Cheryl Miller Award names the best small forward in the nation and this is the second year Howard has been a finalist. The Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award both seek to name the top player in women’s college basketball. Howard was a finalists for the Naismith Trophy and was a Wooden All-American last season. This is also the second straight year she has been a finalist for the Dawn Staley Award, which is annually awarded to the most outstanding guard in women’s college basketball.
Howard – the only player in the nation averaging over 20 points per game with at least 7.3 rebounds per game, 50 steals and 70 assists – is having a great junior season for the Wildcats, averaging 20.7 points per game with 7.3 rebounds per game. She has hit a team-best 49 3-pointers and has 78 assists, 51 steals and 18 blocks. Although her scoring average is two points lower from last season, Howard has shown she is an all-around player and not just a scorer, upping her rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game average from both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, has played 22 games this season with half of those coming against top 25 ranked foes. In those games, Howard has shown she is the best player in the country with impressive numbers. In 11 games against ranked opponents, Howard is averaging 22.3 points per game, hitting 47.1 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3 with 6.7 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game. Howard has four 30+ scoring games this season with three coming against top-25 ranked teams.
Earlier this month at the 2021 SEC Tournament, Howard played two brilliant games for the Wildcats to earn her second straight SEC All-Tournament Team nod. The guard scored 27 points with six rebounds, four assists and four steals against Florida. In a close game late against the Gators, Howard scored nine fourth-quarter points and turned up the defense leading to several steals and a UK win. She followed with 33 points against top-20 ranked Georgia with three 3s, five rebounds, three steals and an assist. Howard, Candace Parker (Tennessee) and DeWanna Bonner (Auburn) are the only players in the event’s history with four games of 25 or more points and five or more rebounds.
One of her best performances of the year was when she scored 33 points at No. 12 Mississippi State, hitting four 3s with 10 rebounds and six assists. She scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Bulldogs, scoring 25 of UK’s last 31 points, including 10 of 14 in overtime. Other impressive performances on the biggest stage include 32 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against No. 5 South Carolina and 24 points with four 3s, 10 rebounds and four assists against No. 10 Arkansas. She also posted 22 points against No. 13 Indiana and at No. 8 Texas A&M. Howard took over for Kentucky at No. 17 Georgia with 27 points, four rebounds, four steals, two assists and went 4-of-4 from 3 and then followed with her 33-point performance against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament.