Rhyne Howard named AP First Team All-American for third time


Kentucky Wildcats guard Rhyne Howard high fives a fan during the team’s return from the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday, March 6, 2022, at Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Kentucky. UK defeated No. 1 South Carolina 64-62 with a 3-pointer by Dre’Una Edwards in the last seconds of the game in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky womens basketball star Rhyne Howard made history on Wednesday, becoming the first Wildcat to be named to three consecutive AP All-American First Teams.

No other UK player has achieved the feat since the Associated Press began recognizing teams in 1995.

The accolade joins a long list of nominations for the veteran guard, as she had previously also been named a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year, a finalist for the 2022 Cheryl Miller Award, a contender for the Wooden Award and a finalist for the Dawn Staley Award.

Howard first made the AP All-American First-Team in 2020, her sophomore season, averaging 23 points per game, including a 43-point showing at Alabama, 6.5 rebounds per game, finishing the season with 66 assists.

She repeated the feat her junior year, this time averaging 20.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and an improved 91 assists on the season.

With Kentucky’s first NCAA Tournament game against Princeton yet to be played, Howard has averaged 20.6 points per game, including two 32-point games, 7.3 rebounds and 101 assists at the time of her nomination.

Howard’s presence has been a critical factor for Kentucky during her four-year tenure, with the ongoing season’s senior celebrations being dubbed ‘Rhyne Howard Day’ as opposed to the standard ‘Senior Day’, with Howard going off for one of her aforementioned 32-point performances in her final game inside Memorial Coliseum.

Howard was deserving of the focused praise, having surpassed 2,000 career points with Kentucky in 2022, currently checking in with 2,273, putting her as the second highest scorer in UK history between both the mens and womens programs.

Despite being the first woman to be named to three consecutive AP All-American First-Teams, Howard became the second womens player to be named to three consecutive first-team honors from the same organization after Valerie Still, the top scorer in UK history, who made it on Street and Smith’s first team from 1981-1983.

Howard is the fifth woman in UK history to be recognized to any first-team after Still, Pam Browning, who was named to Street and Smith’s first-team in 1977, Victoria Dunlap, who was named to the 2010 USBWA and WBCA first-teams, and A’dia Mathies, who made the 2012 USBWA first-team.

The senior has been projected to be a potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA draft, alongside South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston.

Howard is currently the only player in the country to have accumulated 600-plus points, 200-plus rebounds, 100-plus assists, 70-plus steals and 35-plus blocks during her tenure in Lexington.

Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed, a thrilling prospect for a team that found itself with a losing record in February, after stunning No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC Championship game to secure its first SEC title in 40 years, with Howard winning the SEC MVP award.

The Wildcats, led by Howard, will look to fight to survive in the NCAA Tournament, with UK head coach Kyra Elzy making it clear she intends to send the star out ‘on top’.

Whether or not a national championship is in the cards for Howard is to be determined, but what is for certain is that she is a generational talent who continues to make history during her farewell season in the Bluegrass.