LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky senior guard Rhyne Howard has received maybe one of her biggest honors to date amongst a long list of accomplishments through her career as she has been named one of 10 national finalists for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS Award.
To be eligible for the award, student-athletes must be classified as NCAA Division I seniors or graduate-students and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. The complete list of finalists can be found online at SeniorClassAward.com.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their athletic platforms to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The finalists were chosen by a selection committee from the list of 30 men’s candidates and 30 women’s candidates announced earlier in the season. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to submit votes online at the Senior CLASS Award website through March 21. Fan votes will be combined with those of the media and Division I head coaches to determine the winners. The Senior CLASS Award recipients will be announced during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four® and NCAA Women’s Final Four®.
So far this season, Howard is leading Kentucky by averaging 20.4 points per game, earning 7.7 rebounds per game with 67 assists, 56 steals, 25 blocks and a team best 39 3-pointers. Howard ranks high nationally in several categories, including 14th nationally in points per game and 18th nationally in steals per game. Howard ranks first in the Southeastern Conference in points per game, while she is third in steals per game and fourth in field-goals made and fifth in free-throw percentage.
Her best game this season came against top-15 ranked Georgia, scoring 30 points in the game, including 22 in the second half. She scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. On top of scoring UK’s last 10 points in the game, she scored 13 of UK’s last 17 points overall. She also shined against West Virginia, when she scored 27 points, going 5-of-7 from long range with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Against Winthrop, Howard joined an exclusive club by becoming the third player in UK history to record a triple-double in a game. She scored 22 points against the Eagles with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, adding five steals.
Howard has been playing at another level the last few games with 20+ points in six of the last eight games. She has recorded a double-double in five of the last seven games for UK, including a season-best 12 rebounds at No. 12 LSU. Against Auburn, she scored 29 points with nine rebounds, hitting five 3s. The guard scored 17 points in the fourth quarter against Auburn to help propel UK to the victory. Against No. 1 South Carolina, Howard led Kentucky in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history. In 103 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 89 games, posted 10 or more points in 92 career games, 15+ in 76 games, 20+ in 57 games, 25+ in 30 games and 30+ in eight games. The guard has led UK in scoring in 68 career games, in rebounding in 56 career games, in assists in 38 career games, in steals in 44 games and blocks in 41 career games. She has 24 career double-doubles.
For her career, Howard has scored 2,063 career points sitting second in UK history in points. 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 20.0, while she is third in field-goals made with 719, second in career 3s made with 253 and fourth in career 3-point field-goal percentage at 37.5. She is also fourth in UK history in steals per game at 2.398.
Howard’s junior season was one for the record books at Kentucky, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, United States Basketball Writers Association and Wooden Award. She was one of four finalists for the WBCA Wade Trophy, one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, one of four finalists for the 2021 Naismith Trophy and a finalist for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award. For the second year in a row, Southeastern Conference coaches named Howard the SEC Player of the Year, while she earned All-SEC First Team honors for the third straight season.
Howard – who was the only player in the nation in 2020-21 to average over 20 points per game with at least 7.3 rebounds per game, 90 assists and 60 steals – had a great junior season for the Wildcats, averaging 20.7 points per game with 7.3 rebounds per game. She hit a team-best 56 3-pointers and had 91 assists, 61 steals and 19 blocks. Although her scoring average was two points less than it was in 2019-20, Howard showed she is an all-around player and not just a scorer, upping her rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game average from both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, played 24 games last season with nearly half of those coming against top-25 ranked opponents. In those games, Howard showed she is the best player in the country with impressive numbers. In 11 games against ranked opponents, Howard averaged 22.3 points per game, hitting 47.1 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3 with 6.7 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game. Howard had four 30+ scoring games during the season with three coming against top-25 ranked teams.
One of her best performances of the year was when she scored 33 points at No. 12 Mississippi State, hitting four 3s with 10 rebounds and six assists. She scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Bulldogs, scoring 25 of the UK’s last 31 points, including 10 of 14 in overtime. Other impressive performances on the biggest stage include 32 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against No. 5 South Carolina and 24 points with four 3s, 10 rebounds and four assists against No. 10 Arkansas. She also posted 22 points against No. 13 Indiana and at No. 8 Texas A&M. Howard took over for Kentucky at No. 17 Georgia with 27 points, four rebounds, four steals, two assists and went 4-of-4 from 3 and then followed with a 33-point performance against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on TwitterInstagram, Facebook and TikTok.