Rhyne Howard Becomes Kentucky’s First WNBA Draft No. 1 Pick
NEW YORK – Rhyne Howard, the most decorated player in Kentucky women’s basketball history, added another milestone Monday as she was selected first overall at the 2022 WNBA Draft by the Atlanta Dream. Held at Spring Studios in New York, Howard made history at the draft, becoming the first Kentucky women’s basketball player ever to be selected first overall.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, becomes the seventh player in program history to be selected in the WNBA Draft and the first since Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps were both selected in 2017. Akhator was previously the highest draft pick in school history at third overall. Howard, Akhator, A’dia Mathies and Victoria Dunlap are the only first-round picks in program history. Howard’s accomplishment makes Kentucky only the 16th program to produce a No. 1 WNBA Draft selection and one of only five schools in the league to produce such a player.
Howard becomes the seventh player in Southeastern Conference history to be selected first overall, joining Dena Head (1997 – Tennessee), Chamique Holdsclaw (1999 – Tennessee), LaToya Thomas (2003 – Mississippi State), Seimone Augustus (2006 – LSU), Candace Parker (2008 – Tennessee) and Aja Wilson (2018 – South Carolina).
Howard’s fulfilled dream of being a No. 1 pick bookends a historic collegiate career. The guard became the only player in program history to receive multiple first-team All-America honors from multiple organizations along with being the only UK WBB player to earn four first-team All-SEC honors. This season alone, Howard earned first-team All-America honors from the Senior CLASS Award, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, The Associated Press, Wooden Award and United States Basketball Writers Association. Howard joined Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, South Carolina’s Wilson, Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Tennessee’s Holdsclaw, Duke’s Alana Beard, Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris and UConn’s Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore as the only three-time first-team AP All-America honorees. Howard was also tabbed Wooden Award, AP and USBWA First-Team All-America in 2020 and 2021 after historic seasons for the Wildcats. She was WBCA First-Team All-America in 2021 and honorable mention from the organization in 2020.
One of college basketball’s best, Howard has been a finalist for nearly every major national player of the year award each of the last three seasons. Howard is currently still a finalist for the 2022 Honda Women’s Sports Award and was also in the running for the 2022 WBCA Wade Trophy, 2022 Cheryl Miller Award, 2022 Wooden Award and 2022 Dawn Staley Award. She was one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy this season as well. Her junior season, she was a finalist for the Honda Women’s Sports Award, WBCA Wade Trophy, Cheryl Miller Award, Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy and Dawn Staley Award. As a sophomore, Howard was a finalist for the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, Cheryl Miller Award and Dawn Staley Award.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) April 11, 2022
It was a storybook ending to her UK career, shinning on the national stage in the SEC Tournament, helping Kentucky to its first tournament title in 40 years. The guard was named the tournament’s most valuable player, becoming the second player in program history to earn that honor. Howard scored 88 points in UK’s four games at the event, marking the third most ever by a player in the tournament. The Wildcats won the championship with a huge upset victory over No. 1 South Carolina. Howard was amazing in the game, scoring 18 points with four rebounds, two assists and two blocks. In the semifinals, Howard scored 24 points against No. 15 Tennessee with seven assists, nine rebounds and two 3s. Howard led Kentucky to an upset victory over No. 6 LSU in the quarterfinals, scoring 32 points with six 3-pointers. The guard had 14 points against Mississippi State in the second round of the event.
During the final week of the regular season, Kentucky celebrated Rhyne Howard Day vs. Auburn as the guard played her final game inside Memorial Coliseum and went out in style. Howard scored 32 points in the game, which is the most points ever by a Kentucky senior on Senior Day. Howard hit eight 3s in the game, which was a new school record for 3s made in a game. She had six 3s in the first half, which was a new school record for 3s in half. The eight makes from long range gave Howard 272 career 3s, which made her the school’s career record holder in 3s made. Her 32 points were a season high and the performance gave her the second-most 30-point games in school history with nine.
Her performances in the final month of the season moved Howard up to 17th all-time on the SEC’s career scoring list. Howard ended the season leading Kentucky by averaging 20.5 points per game, earning 7.4 rebounds per game with 102 assists, 71 steals, 39 blocks and a team best 70 3-pointers. Howard ranked high nationally in several categories, including 15th nationally in points per game and 17th nationally in total points. Howard ranked first in the SEC in points per game and final points.
Howard’s career is one of the best in program history. In 114 career games, Howard hit at least one 3 in 99 games, posted 10 or more points in 102 career games, 15+ in 85 games, 20+ in 61 games, 25+ in 33 games and 30+ 10 games. The guard led UK in scoring in 73 career games, in rebounding in 60 career games, in assists in 40 career games, in steals in 50 games and blocks in 45 career games. She had 27 career double-doubles and one triple-double. This season, Howard hit a 3 in 26 games, three-plus 3s in 10 games, five-plus 3s in five games, scored 10+ in 28 games, 15+ in 26 games, 20+ in 17 games, 25+ in seven games and three 30-point game. She led UK in scoring 19 times, rebounding 15 times, assists 11 times, steals 19 times, blocks 14 times and has 10 season double-doubles.
For her career, Howard scored 2,290 career points sitting second in UK history in points scored. Against Vanderbilt, Howard scored her 2,000 career points, becoming just the third Wildcat in school history – both men’s and women’s – to record 2,000 or more points in 100 games or less. She joined Hall of Famers Dan Issel and Valerie Still in that category. Howard ranks second in school history in career scoring average at 20.1, while she is second in field-goals made with 790, first in career 3s made with 284 and fourth in career 3-point field-goal percentage at 38.2. She is also fourth in UK history in steals per game at 2.298.
On the single-season list at UK, Howard has the fifth and sixth-most points, the fourth, seventh and eighth best scoring averages, the seventh and eighth most field-goals made, and the first, fifth and eighth most 3s made in a single season in program history. Her 43 points against Alabama in January of 2020 is the most points ever scored in a regulation game and tied the most ever in any game in program history.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.