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Rhyne Howard joins Florida WBB coaching staff

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim10/09/23

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft and arguably the greatest player to ever suit up for the Kentucky women’s basketball program is starting her coaching career — and it won’t be in Lexington. Instead, Rhyne Howard has been named an assistant coach and the Director of Player Personnel at the University of Florida.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Howard, a star for the Atlanta Dream and an all-time great for the Wildcats, is now a Gator. She will be a member of the Florida women’s basketball staff under head coach Kelly Rae Finley during the WNBA offseason and will return to the floor for the Dream next spring when training camp begins. Some players choose to play professionally overseas during their time off, some rest and spend time with loved ones. Kentucky’s all-time three-point shooter and SEC Player of the Year will coach for her mother’s alma mater in Gainesville, a conference rival to her own former school.

“It has always been important to me that we surround our student-athletes with people who can help equip them with the skills necessary to succeed as professionals on and off the court,” Finley announced Monday. “Rhyne is humble, competitive, thoughtful, and driven… She is living many of our student-athlete’s dreams. Her knowledge of the game combined with her ability to teach and connect with them on and off the court will elevate our program.”

Howard’s mother, Rhvonja (RJ) Avery, played for the Gators from 1987-91. A captain in 1990-91, Avery is in the top ten for career steals with 192, holds one of the highest field goal percentages in Gators history at .521 (176-344), is ranked 13th in career rebounding with 777, and is the eighth-quickest Gator to score 1,000 career points, hitting that mark in 76 games. Rhvonja also made Florida history by becoming one of the first female Gators to compete in the US Olympic Festival (1989). 

“When you really think about it everything is full circle, my mom was a Gator herself and I have been on this campus multiple times, but to actually be able to wear the orange and blue, I know it’s making her proud, I know it’s making everyone who thought I was originally going to be a Florida Gator proud,” Howard said. “I always knew at some point that I would have the connection back with this school and just to be here and to be loved and to feel how much of a family it is already just confirmed all that.” 

Howard helped the Dream reach the WNBA playoffs in 2023, racking up 681 total points for an average of 17.5 per contest. She previously earned WNBA All-Star, WNBA Kia Rookie of the Year and AP Rookie of the Year honors during her debut season in 2022.

During her time at Kentucky, Howard scored 2,290 career points, good for second in school history. She’s just the third Wildcat ever — men or women — to record 2,000 points in 100 games or less, joining Dan Issel and Valerie Still. Her 20.1 points per game average is second in program history, as is her 790 made field goals. She’s No. 1 in career three-pointers with 284 and fourth in three-point percentage at 38.2, along with fourth in steals per game at 2.3.

A legend for the Wildcats, Howard’s coaching career begins with the Gators.

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