Rhyne Howard on her future in the WNBA


Kentucky Wildcats guard Rhyne Howard (10) smiles after getting a jump ball call during the UK vs. Presbyterian College womenís basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 81-53. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard made history on Monday, becoming the first Kentucky womens basketball star to ever go No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft, as she was selected by the Atlanta Dream.

Howard, while remaining true to her humble and calm nature, felt the weight of the moment and the historic feat she’d just accomplished, even if it had been expected as a possibility since the season began.

“I don’t even have words for it right now,” Howard said. “I’m still kinda shaking. It was super exciting, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, proud of myself and thankful for everyone that’s been on this journey with me and has helped me to get here.”

Howard’s success was hardly a shock, with the guard being named Miss Tennessee Basketball and Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year during her senior year of high school in 2018.

A five-star prospect heading into college, Howard was a McDonald’s All-American nominee and entered the freshman season as the eighth ranked recruit in her class, making her a highly touted recruit for then head coach Matthew Mitchell.

Once in college, despite her expectations, it’s unlikely anyone could predict just how far she’d go, immortalizing herself as one of the best to ever wear blue and white.

Currently in the history books as the second all-time leading scorer in UK history, across both mens and womens teams, Howard scored 2,290 points, second to only Valerie Still.

With her trophy case full of awards and accolades, Howard looks to her future with the WNBA, with all questions now surrounding how her talent will carry over to the next level.

Howard, despite the pressure surrounding being the No. 1 overall pick, expressed confidence and faith in herself to be able to succeed in the pros.

“I think it’s my competitive spirit and my will to never give up and always fight,” She said. “I maintain my composure and stay calm and collected. I think that’s really what helped me to become successful. I really just want to have an impact on the team when I get there and continue to make everyone better.”

When asked if she’s ready to make the jump and compete against many of the best womens basketball players in the world, Howard once again expressed confidence in herself and her ability.

“I personally do think I’m ready,” she said. “Just because I’m so competitive like I mentioned before, but I am ready to keep improving on how hard I’m working, just doing the little things that teams are going to need. Personally I think I’m very versatile, so whatever position I need to play, I like to master those positions and if they need me to work on a specific thing, whatever the case may be, I’ll be able to do it.”

The team that drafted her, the Atlanta Dream, also had personal significance to the star, being just around 150 miles, or a two hour drive, from her high school in Cleveland, Tennessee.

“For it to be so close is huge,” Howard said. “It will mean a lot of family and close friends will be able to come and support me.”

The Dream finished the 2021 season with a 8-24 record, the second lowest in the WNBA, something Howard seemed determined to change even in her first year with the team.

“I want to be part of a winning team, that’s the end goal,” she said. “I met with [Renee Montgomery and Tanisha Wright] a couple of times and they just asked me simple questions, like how do I compete and how do I lead, and asked me if I could step up to the challenge and work hard everyday whether it’s practice or games. I was like, ‘Yeah, I believe I can.’ I was basically selling myself and proving to them why I believe I’m the right fit for them.”

While Howard is the kind of athlete to focus the majority of their time and effort to their craft, she also recognized the role she now has as an influencer, being an inspiration to potentially generations of young girls to come. 

When asked if she had any advice for those who will look up to her, she offered the same advice she herself followed to allow her to get to the WNBA as a No. 1 overall pick.

“Always believe in yourself,” she said. “If somebody says you can’t do it, then you have no choice but to prove that you can. Always work on your craft and keep those who want to see you succeed around you. Never doubt yourself.”

With the WNBA season scheduled to begin in less than a month, Howard will have her first chance to prove herself on Saturday, May 7, when the Dream open their season against the Dallas Wings.