Junior guard one of 20 players nationally on watch list for nation’s best small forward
LEXINGTON, Ky. – It’s preseason award season and Big Blue Nation should get used to seeing University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Rhyne Howard’s name as Wednesday the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced her one of 20 watch list candidates for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award.
Named after the three-time Naismith Player of the Year and Class of 1995 Hall of Famer, the annual award is in its fourth year and recognizes the top small forwards in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball. A national committee of top college basketball personnel determined the watch list of 20 candidates.
College basketball fans are encouraged to participate in Fan Voting presented by Dell Technologies in each of the three rounds. In early February, the watch list of 20 players for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award will be narrowed to just 10. In early March, five finalists will be presented to Ms. Miller and the Hall of Fame’s selection committee.
The winner of the 2021 Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award will be presented on Friday, April 9, 2021, along with the other four members of the Women’s Starting Five. Additional awards being presented include the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award, and the Lisa Leslie Center Award, in addition to the Men’s Starting Five.
Howard was a finalist for the award last season which was one of many accolades the superstar earned during her sophomore year. The guard was also one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, which is widely considered the most prestigious honor in college basketball and names the nation's best player and became the third player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association, which automatically made her one of five candidates for the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year award from the USBWA.
Howard started her postseason accomplishments by becoming the first player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press. She was the fifth Kentucky player in program history to earn first-team All-America honors from a major organization and just the second UK player behind Valerie Still to earn three or more first-team All-America honors in the same season.
Howard also was the 2020 SEC Player of the Year and earned first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive Team honors last season while she was one of four finalists for the Citizen Naismith Trophy, recognizing the most outstanding women's college basketball player of the year. So far this preseason, Howard has been named a first-team preseason All-America honoree by Lindy’s Sports.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, had 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.