Being a second-team All-American would be a huge honor for most players — but not Kentucky junior Rhyne Howard. She thought she should have been a first-team selection by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
“I have a lot of thoughts about it, but we will keep it cordial,” Howard said Monday when asked about the All-American teams. “I definitely think it’s political. I am upset about it, and I’m hurt about it.
“But, I felt like I deserved it, of course, and I felt like I worked hard enough, but I’m just going to use it as motivation and continue to work hard and continue to prove myself.”
Howard was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for a second straight season and is a finalist for most of the nation’s major awards. She is the only player in the nation averaging over 20 points per game with at least 7.3 rebounds per game, 70 assists and 50 steals. She averaged 22.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game in 11 games against ranked teams and shot 47 percent from the field.
She leads Kentucky in scoring, rebounding, and assists. She is also second on the team in steals and third in blocks — signs that her defense has dramatically improved this season.
“I can always improve on everything, really. But, for sure still rebounding, assists, and definitely steals, continue to play defense, so, the other things will come. Like scoring will come if I play defense harder, if I get a couple more steals, I can turn them into fast break points, or get assists off of those,” Howard said going into UK’s game Sunday in the NCAA Tournament against Idaho State.
Howard has an unassuming demeanor most games and seldom shows emotion on the court because she doesn’t want to get “too high or too low” during the game.
“I know if I get too down, then my teammates are looking at me and they’re going to get really down, or if we get too high, then the other team can make a run, and then we’re just like, back to down, back to the beginning. So, I try to keep it steady and set the tone,” Howard said.
Coach Kyra Elzy says Howard is one of the nation’s best players because of her versatility on both offense and defense.
“I think what makes Rhyne special is she can play the one through the five, but she also makes the people around her better, and she has matured into a vocal leader this year,” Howard said.
“Her teammates want to do well for her, as well. I think having Rhyne is a big advantage, but I just think that not only Rhyne, we have so much talent across the board, and that’s what makes us a dangerous team during this time.”