UK’s Rhyne Howard on Wooden Award, Wade Trophy watch lists

Senior guard was a finalist for both awards last season

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Two more national player of the year awards have tabbed University of Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard on their preseason watch lists as the Wooden Award and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Wade Trophy honored the senior Tuesday.

Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the Wooden Award List is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for the most prestigious honors in college basketball, the Wooden Award All American Team™ and Most Outstanding Player Award. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2022 John R. Wooden Award Women’s Player of the Year presented by Wendy’s.

Players not chosen to the preseason list are still eligible for the Wooden Award™ midseason list, late season list, and the National Ballot. The National Ballot consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they meet or exceed the qualifications of the Wooden Award.

Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players when voting opens prior to the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games.

The Wooden Award All American Team™ will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2022 John R. Wooden Award will be presented by Wendy’s following the NCAA Tournament in April.

The Wade Trophy — now in its 45th year — is the oldest and most prestigious national player of the year award in college women’s basketball. It is named in honor of the late, legendary Delta State University head coach Lily Margaret Wade, who won three consecutive national championships with the Lady Statesmen.

First awarded in 1978 by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), now known as SHAPE America, the Wade Trophy has been presented to the WBCA NCAA Division I National Player of the Year since 2001. The 2021-22 season will be the first in which freshmen are eligible for the honor. However, no freshmen made the list.

The Wade Watch list of candidates for the Wade Trophy is composed of players selected by the WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America Selection Committee. The committee will review the list midseason to determine if additional players will be added based on their play during the first half of the 2021-22 season.

The preseason watch lists join a lengthy list of preseason praise for Howard, who recently was tabbed the Southeastern Conference Preseason Player of the Year by league coaches and league media. For the third straight season, Howard is on the Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List after being a finalist for the award each of the last two seasons. Howard was named a first-team preseason All-America honoree by the Associated Press. She has also earned preseason All-America honors from Lindy’s Sports and The Athletic.

Howard’s junior season was one for the record books at Kentucky, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, United States Basketball Writers Association and Wooden Award.

She was one of four finalists for the WBCA Wade Trophy, one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, one of four finalists for the 2021 Naismith Trophy and a finalist for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award. For the second year in a row, Southeastern Conference coaches named Howard the SEC Player of the Year, while she earned All-SEC First Team honors for the third straight season.

Howard – who was the only player in the nation in 2020-21 to average over 20 points per game with at least 7.3 rebounds per game, 90 assists and 60 steals – had a great junior season for the Wildcats, averaging 20.7 points per game with 7.3 rebounds per game.

She hit a team-best 56 3-pointers and had 91 assists, 61 steals and 19 blocks. Although her scoring average was two points less than it was in 2019-20, Howard showed 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, played 24 games last season with nearly half of those coming against top-25 ranked opponents. In those games, Howard showed she is the best player in the country with impressive numbers.

In 11 games against ranked opponents, Howard averaged 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 had four 30+ scoring games during the season with three coming against top-25 ranked teams.

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 a 33-point performance against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament.

Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history. In 83 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 73 games, posted 10 or more points in 74 career games, 15+ in 59 games, 20+ in 44 games, 25+ in 26 games and 30+ in seven games. The guard has led UK in scoring in 54 career games, in rebounding in 44 career games, in assists in 29 career games, in steals in 30 games and blocks in 31 career games. She has 17 career double-doubles.

For her career, Howard has scored 1,655 career points sitting seventh in UK history in points scored. She needs 37 more to tie Maci Morris for sixth. 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 ranks second in school history in career scoring average at 19.9, while she is third in career 3s made with 214 and third in career 3-point field-goal percentage at 38.1. She is also eighth in UK history in steals per game at 2.301.

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