Rhyne Howard named semifinalist for Naismith Trophy Player of the Year

Junior guard is one of 11 players up for national player of the year

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – The honors keep coming for University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Rhyne Howard, who has been named one of 11 semifinalists for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year.

Last season, Howard was a finalist for the award with this year’s finalists set to be announced on March 19. The winner of the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year will be released on April 3.

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Earlier Tuesday, Howard was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season by league coaches. She was also tabbed All-SEC First Team. She becomes the third player in league history to win two player of the year honors prior to their senior season. Howard is the second UK player to win back-to-back honors from league coaches.

Howard, who is the only power five conference player in the nation averaging over 19 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game with at least 40 steals and 70 assists, is having another banner season for the Wildcats. The only player in the SEC currently leading her team in scoring, rebounding and assists, Howard is averaging 19.8 points per game with 7.5 rebounds per game. She is leading Kentucky with 73 assists and ranks second on the team with 44 steals and third with 16 blocks. In league action, Howard averaged 21.6 points per game with 7.9 rebounds per game with 54 assists and 31 steals.

Her best performances this season have come against the best teams in the nation. In 10 games against ranked opponents, Howard is averaging 21.2 points per game, hitting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3 with 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game. Howard 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. Most recently, 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.

Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history with still games remaining this year and her senior season in 2021-22. In 79 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 69 games, including 16 games this season. She has posted 10 or more points in 70 career games, 15+ in 56 games, 20+ in 41 games, 25+ in 23 games and 30+ in six games – including three times this season. The guard has led UK in scoring in 50 career games, in rebounding in 43 career games, in assists and steals in 26 career games and blocks in 29 career games. She has 17 career double-doubles, including six this season.

For her career, Howard has scored 1,553 career points sitting 10th in UK history in points scored. She needs 10 more to tie Sara Potts for ninth. Howard is the second player in school history to reach 1,500 career points prior to their senior season with the other being All-American and UK all-time leading scorer Valerie Still.

Howard and No. 17 Kentucky will return to action Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats received the fifth seed in the event and will play the winner of 13 seeded Auburn and 12th seeded Florida on Thursday at approx. 1 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on SEC Network. The tournament is taking place this weekend in a limited capacity Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com