Women's Basketball
Howard Motivated to Have Big Junior Season

Howard Motivated to Have Big Junior Season

by Tim Letcher

Rhyne Howard had a spectacular year for the Kentucky women’s basketball team last season. Howard finished second in the nation in scoring at 23.4 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and nearly two assists. She made 84 three-pointers last season as well, leading the Cats to a 22-8 record.

Yet when the postseason All-American teams were announced, Howard was left off the first team. Howard saw that as a slight.

“It is definitely a huge motivator for me because I just felt like that was so disrespectful towards me and towards my game,” Howard said. My teammates know how hard I was working and my coaches know how hard we were all working to make sure we did get as far as we would like as a team and just to make sure I never took any days off or anything like that.”

Howard is using the omission as motivation for this season.

“For them to leave me off, I was hurt a little bit,” Howard said. “But then I was like, ‘alright, now y’all have really made me mad because I was just taking it easy but now I can’t and I have to come at y’all.'”

Howard is also motivated due to last season being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mentally, I am just focusing on just for one, being back on the court with my teammates,” Howard said. “With our season getting cut short last year, ever since I have been ready to compete for and putting a jersey on for the University of Kentucky. Mentally, I am just working on going hard at all times and being the leader the newcomer and returners can look up to because I know what the coaches are expecting and what we need to do to make things happen and make a deep run.”

Former UK head coach Matthew Mitchell knows what drives Howard.

“She wants to be the best player in the country,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot of people that want to be that but she is one of the few people that want to do it and actually has the chance to do that. For us, I think it just comes down to trying to hold her to a high standard every day.”

As for UK interim head coach Kyra Elzy, she knows what she has in Howard.

“The best advice that I have received thus far – if all else fails, put the ball in Rhyne Howard’s hands and let her do what she does best,” Elzy said.

This season, the 6-2 junior from Cleveland, Tennessee, is expected to be among the top candidates for national player of the year. However, she’s not going to let that affect her play.

“I don’t really feel any pressure because I don’t feel a reason to be pressured,” Howard said. “I have my teammates behind me and we have a great team this year. I got Chasity (Patterson) on the point and like KeKe (McKinney) said, I got her and Olivia (Owens) and the newcomers, we got all them.”

“We are going to have a great team and they are there to lift the pressure off of me and if I do get pressured I know I can go to them or go to my coaches and they will make it easier for me,” Howard said. “They can make sure I am staying focused on making the right plays for my team.”

The fact that Howard is even more motivated this season is a scary thought, after her performance last year. Howard is hoping to use that motivation to reach all of her goals, both for this season and beyond.


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