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Elzy on Rhyne Howard's season thus far: “Still the best player in women’s college basketball”

Grant Grubbsby:Grant Grubbs12/30/20


Photo by Hannah Phillips | UK Athletics

A lot of people have been surprised by UK’s star player, Rhyne Howard, seemingly slow start this season. But head coach Kyra Elzy isn’t so quick to fall for the relatively lesser statistics.

After being asked about Howard’s early-season play during the pre-Arkansas press conference on Wednesday, Elzy–the freshly instated coach of the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats Women’s Basketball Team–had nothing but confidence in her star player.

“Let’s make no mistake about it, Rhyne Howard is still the best player in women’s college basketball.”

It might seem like a hot take, considering Howard is averaging nearly eight points per game less than last season (15.5 as a junior compared to 23.4 as a sophomore). However, as crazy as it may sound, this may not be a bad thing.

With the addition of transfers such as Dre’Una Edwards and Robyn Benton, this team has a lot of offensive firepower. And although it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Howard to accelerate her production as the season moves forward, her early pace has allowed room for her new teammates to hit the ground running.

Elzy explained the value of Howard’s ability to do more than just put the ball in the basket.

“She is so versatile,” Elzy said regarding her star player, Howard. “You look at the stat sheet and she might have 10 or 12 rebounds. She might have eight or 10 assists. She has eight or 10 steals. She can do anything on the court.”

Although Coach Elzy speaks with confidence, I’m not fully convinced that Howard is playing at the same level as last season–yet. Yet being the keyword. Howard is well on her way to reaching her full potential this season and there a few fundamental reasons why.

Howard has improved each and every game

(Eddie Justice | UK Athletics)

After missing the first couple games of the season due to “not upholding the standards of the program,” Howard has only gotten better with each competition. Specifically, her three-point shooting has drastically improved.

In her first game of the season, Howard was a horrendous 0 of 7 from range. In her most recent game against Wofford, Howard shot a season-high 4 of 7 from deep.

Howard isn’t only finding her rhythm on the offensive end, but in other categories as well. In her first three games of the season, Howard snagged a total of 15 rebounds, compared to the past three games where she collected 23 rebounds.

Howard goes big in the big moments

Even though the Women’s Basketball Team is still early in their season, they have already run up against two tough, ranked opponents. In both of these games, Howard not only showed up, but showed out.

Against, then-No. 13 ranked Indiana, Howard scored 22 points and led all scorers. Furthermore, against No. 18 ranked DePaul, Howard dropped 18 points and 12 rebounds.

If these first several games have taught us anything, Howard will undoubtedly play well when she undoubtedly needs to play well.

SEC play is right around the corner

If you think Howard plays well against out-of-conference opponents, take a look at her accolades against SEC competition. The junior guard has already proven herself time and time again in the challenging league.

She was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019. She was SEC Player of the year in 2020. Both of these years she was First-Team All-SEC. She is nothing short of an absolute menace to other teams in the conference.

With the Wildcats’ next opponent coming against No. 10 Arkansas on Thursday night, Howard has her chance to resume her reign as the top player in the Southeastern Conference and I believe she will. As the team continues to grow and Howard finds her groove, we can rest assured Howard will do everything in her power to prove the doubters wrong and prove Coach Elzy right.

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