Rhyne Howard named semifinalist for Naismith Trophy Player of the Year

Kentucky during a game against Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Feb....
Kentucky during a game against Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)(Tony Walsh | Photo: UK Athletics)
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 3:02 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The honors keep coming for University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Rhyne Howard, who has been named one of 11 semifinalists for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year.

Last season, Howard was a finalist for the award with this year’s finalists set to be announced on March 19. The winner of the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Women’s National Player of the Year will be released on April 3.

Earlier Tuesday, Howard was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season by league coaches. She was also tabbed All-SEC First Team. She becomes the third player in league history to win two player of the year honors prior to their senior season. Howard is the second UK player to win back-to-back honors from league coaches.

Howard, who is the only power five conference player in the nation averaging over 19 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game with at least 40 steals and 70 assists, is having another banner season for the Wildcats. The only player in the SEC currently leading her team in scoring, rebounding and assists, Howard is averaging 19.8 points per game with 7.5 rebounds per game. She is leading Kentucky with 73 assists and ranks second on the team with 44 steals and third with 16 blocks. In league action, Howard averaged 21.6 points per game with 7.9 rebounds per game with 54 assists and 31 steals.

Her best performances this season have come against the best teams in the nation. In 10 games against ranked opponents, Howard is averaging 21.2 points per game, hitting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3 with 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game. Howard 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 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. Most recently, 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.

Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history with still games remaining this year and her senior season in 2021-22. In 79 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 69 games, including 16 games this season. She has posted 10 or more points in 70 career games, 15+ in 56 games, 20+ in 41 games, 25+ in 23 games and 30+ in six games – including three times this season. The guard has led UK in scoring in 50 career games, in rebounding in 43 career games, in assists and steals in 26 career games and blocks in 29 career games. She has 17 career double-doubles, including six this season.

For her career, Howard has scored 1,553 career points sitting 10th in UK history in points scored. She needs 10 more to tie Sara Potts for ninth. Howard is the second player in school history to reach 1,500 career points prior to their senior season with the other being All-American and UK all-time leading scorer Valerie Still.

Howard and No. 17 Kentucky will return to action Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats received the fifth seed in the event and will play the winner of 13 seeded Auburn and 12th seeded Florida on Thursday at approx. 1 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on SEC Network. The tournament is taking place this weekend in a limited capacity Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.