Rhyne Howard doesn’t wear blue and white anymore, but she’s a Wildcat forever.
The Kentucky legend made her return to Memorial Coliseum for the first time since the Atlanta Dream selected her with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Howard returned to the Bluegrass with even more accomplishments than she left with.
Howard raked in WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 34.3% from beyond the arc. Proving her place among first-year pros wasn’t enough for the two-time SEC Player of the Year. Howard also made the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game.
Despite being one of the busiest women in basketball, Howard made time to sit down with KSR on Thursday evening.
“It’s great to be back. I’ve been welcomed by a lot of smiles and a lot of hugs,” Rhyne Howard, who is currently playing Italy during the WNBA offseason, said before Kentucky took on Alabama Thursday night. “It’s a six-hour time difference, but one o’clock [a.m.] I can do. So, I watch pretty much all of the [Kentucky games] if they’re like televised.”
As thrilled as Howard was to be back in Kentucky, the BBN was more excited to see her. Fans screamed as if they were witnessing the Beatles in their prime. UK awarded Howard with the Power of Women Ball at halftime, an award they have given out at every game since 2018. They followed up the honor by bestowing Howard’s 2022 SEC Championship ring upon her.
Although Howard looked forward to the ring, it was just a cherry on top of the previous award.
“Over my collegiate career, we’ve been doing Power of Women, and just to meet those women and see how they’ve impacted the world — it’s just great to be a part of that company,” Howard said. “I wouldn’t say like I’m on that exact level of them and impacting people, but it is great to see the example they’ve set.”
As humble as Howard is, she’s earned her success. Instead of spending her days lounging by the pool during the WNBA offseason, Howard is on the hardwood. The 6-foot-2 superstar has excelled for the Famila Basket Schio, an Italian-based team in the Women’s EuroLeague.
Howard averages 12.3 points per contest overseas and shoots an even better 37.9% from downtown. Although Howard’s statistics don’t show it, the move across the Atlantic has been a difficult adjustment.
“I’m really isolated over there. I mean it’s a whole other country by yourself, but luckily, I do have another American over there,” Howard said. “But, it’s a good experience for me and my team is really cool. Italy’s not a bad place to be, either.”
The private planes, shoe deals and extra dollars are nice, but, at the end of the day, Howard still misses her old Kentucky home.
“As soon as I walk in the door, I’m flooded with a whole bunch of memories, and I’m forever grateful for that.”