Just two weeks before she cemented her name in Kentucky’s record books by becoming the program’s second all-time leading scorer, senior guard Rhyne Howard admitted over the phone in February that when she first arrived in Lexington, she “never thought it would be like this.”
“I knew I was gonna be good, but [to] get all the way here and achieve all these goals, to [have] everyone look at Kentucky and think, Rhyne Howard, that’s big,” she tells WSLAM. “I have a huge smile on my face right now, just even thinking about that. It is very exciting and I’m super happy that I’ll be able to leave a legacy.”
Throughout her four-year career, Howard has not only solidified herself as one of the coldest scorers in college basketball but one of the greatest to ever rock a Kentucky uniform. Even with her quiet demeanor, the Cleveland, TN (yes, it exists), native lets her game do all the talking. She was named SEC Freshman of the Year, and as a sophomore, she was second nationally in scoring with 23.4 points per game, winning back-to-back conference POY awards then and as a junior.
This past January, she continued to make history by becoming just the third Wildcat ever (men’s or women’s) to score 2,000 career points in 100 games or less, earning her a shout out from one of her favorite players, Klay Thompson, who congratulated her in a video. “I lost my mind,” she says of her reaction.
Despite the Wildcats’ difficult run this year, Howard made the most of her senior season and tried to keep her team encouraged. It’s that leadership that led the Wildcats on a magical run to the NCAA tournament. Just a few weeks after her interview with WSLAM, Howard and the Wildcats defeated No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC Championship game, marking their first conference title in 40 years. After the win, Howard was spotted rocking a paper crown with her name on it as she held the trophy in her hand. The crown, in many ways, is symbolic of her legacy—the team has been using the slogan #CrownHer for years now.
Howard, who majored in Digital Media and Design, even has crowns on her own merch as well as her header on Twitter. “It’s like, never put your head down [or your] crown is gonna fall off,” she says.
Tonight, she’ll add yet another lifetime achievement to her already illustrious career at the 2022 WNBA Draft, where she’s projected to be selected as high as No. 1. Having worked out with pros like Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream and Shavonte Zellous in past summers, Howard says she feels like she’s “got the skill set to be able to play with them” in the W.
“For it to actually be coming true, and to be as high of a prospect as I am, is like, Wow,” she says. “I’m mind-blown. Like, I was just trying to make it, but now I’m at the top of everyone’s lists. It’s a dream come true.”
Photos via Getty Images.