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Rhyne Howard named to Naismith Trophy watch list, preseason SEC Player of the Year

Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard (10) dribbles past Louisville guard Jazmine Jones (23) and forward...
Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard (10) dribbles past Louisville guard Jazmine Jones (23) and forward Bionca Dunham (33) during the second half of an NCAA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)(Bryan Woolston | AP)
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 12:55 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Another hour, another preseason honor for University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Rhyne Howard, who has been named the Southeastern Conference Preseason Player of the Year as voted on by league coaches. Howard was also named to the Preseason All-SEC Team, while the Wildcats were tabbed to finish second in the conference standings.

Last season, Howard was named the 2020 SEC Player of the Year, and to the All-SEC First Team and SEC All-Defensive Team after her impressive sophomore season. The guard was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team and helped lead the Wildcats to the semifinals of the 2020 SEC Tournament.

These honors are part of a lengthy list of preseason praise in the last month for Howard, who was named earlier this morning to the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Preseason Watch List. Last week, Howard became the first Kentucky women’s basketball player to be named a first-team preseason All-American by the AP. She has also been named a Preseason All-American by Lindy’s Sports and one of 20 players to the Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List.

SEC coaches followed suit in their preseason recognition of the Wildcats overall after the AP ranked Kentucky 11th in its preseason top 25 last week. The ranking for Kentucky is its highest since also being ranked No. 11 in the organization’s 2014-15 preseason listing.

Kentucky returns a large portion of its production for 2020-21 even with the departure of five 2020 seniors due to graduation. UK will bring back its top two scorers, while also returning its top two rebounders. Kentucky will also add Maryland transfer Olivia Owens, 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Dre’una Edwards and a top-15 recruiting class in true freshmen Treasure Hunt, Nyah Leveretter and Erin Toller.

Also returning will be the 2020 SEC 6th Woman of the Year in Chasity Patterson, who averaged 11.5 points in 19 games last season. In the post, UK returns KeKe McKinney, who averaged 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds, and Tatyana Wyatt, who averaged 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. Kentucky natives Blair Green and Emma King will also be back for the Wildcats and hope to build on promising 2019-20 seasons. Several players will return to the team but did not see time last year due to injury or NCAA transfer rules. Edwards headlines that list after impressing during her freshman year at Utah along with guard Kameron Roach, who is healthy after she tore her Achilles at the end of her sophomore season and used last year to rehab and regain strength.

Howard is the leading returner after a sensational sophomore season for Kentucky, leading the Wildcats and ranking second nationally with 23.4 points per game. The guard also led UK with 6.5 rebounds per game and 62 steals, while she was second on the team with 29 blocks and third on the team with 68 assists. Howard hit 84 3-pointers this season, which was the most in program history in a single season, topping the previous record of 81 set by Sara Potts in 2004-05. Her 3.1 3-pointers per game ranked top-10 nationally while her 633 total points ranked fifth nationally. Howard’s 23.4 scoring average was the most for a UK player under Matthew Mitchell and the fourth-best average in program history.

Howard placed her name all over the Kentucky record books in 2019-20 as the only player in program history to score 25 or more points in five straight games while she was the second player to score 20 or more points in eight straight games. Howard had two stretches during the season of 20 or more points in eight straight games, including each of her last eight games played after missing three games with a finger injury.

Two of the top-12 scoring performances in program history came last season by Howard. The first was her 37 points in UK’s win vs. Tennessee followed by a school-record tying 43 points at Alabama. She is the only player in program history to score 37+ points in consecutive games and the first to hit seven or more 3-pointers in consecutive games. On top of earning six double-doubles last season, Howard became the second fastest UK player ever to reach 1,000 career points and ended the season with 1,158 career points which ranks 27th on UK’s all-time scoring list.

SEC Preseason Coaches' Predictions

Order of Finish

1. South Carolina

2. Kentucky

3. Texas A&M

4. Arkansas

5. Mississippi State

6. Tennessee

7. LSU

8. Alabama

9. Georgia

10. Missouri

11. Ole Miss

12. Florida

13. Vanderbilt

14. Auburn

Player of the Year

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

First Team All-SEC

Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas

Unique Thompson, Auburn

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Khayla Pointer, LSU

Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Rennia Davis, Tennessee

N’dea Jones, Texas A&M

Second Team All-SEC

Jasmine Walker, Alabama

Destiny Slocum, Arkansas

Lavender Briggs, Florida

Shakira Austin, Ole Miss

Jessika Carter, Mississippi State

Aijha Blackwell, Missouri

Zia Cooke, South Carolina

Kayla Wells, Texas A&M