LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Even though the Wildcats have not yet played a game this season, University of Kentucky junior guard Rhyne Howard is earning accomplishments the program has never seen before as Thursday the Associated Press named her a unanimous selection to its preseason All-America team as voted on by a 30-member national panel.
Howard becomes the first Kentucky women’s basketball player to be named a first-team preseason All-American by the AP, which started announcing a preseason team in 1994-95. Last season, Howard became the first player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from the AP, while she was the fifth Kentucky player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from a major organization and just the second UK player behind Valerie Still to earn three or more first-team All-America honors in the same season.
“Rhyne Howard was one of the best players in the nation last season and after seeing how hard she has worked this offseason and preseason, I have no doubt she’ll be in those same conversations this year,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “What makes Rhyne so special is how she lifts everyone around her up. She is an exceptional person and player and very deserving to be Kentucky’s first AP Preseason All-American. I cannot wait to see what she has in store this season.”
The 2020 SEC Player of the Year, Howard earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference and SEC All-Defensive Team honors last season while she was one of four finalists for the Citizen Naismith Trophy, recognizing the most outstanding women’s college basketball player of the year. On top of being a finalist for the 2020 Cheryl Miller Award, Howard was also one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award and earned All-America honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association, which automatically made her one of five candidates for the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, had a sensational sophomore season for Kentucky, leading the Wildcats and ranking 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 this 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 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 Mitchell and the fourth-best average in program history.
Howard placed her name all over the Kentucky record books 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. On top of earning six double-doubles last season, Howard became the second fastest UK player ever to reach 1,000 career points and ended the season with 1,158 career points which ranks 27th on UK’s all-time scoring list.
So far this preseason, Howard has been named an All-America honoree by Lindy’s Sports and one of 20 players to the Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List.