LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky All-American Rhyne Howard was speechless after being selected as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft on Monday night.
“To begin with, I don’t even have words right now,” she said. “I’m still shaking a bit. But it’s super exciting, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, proud of myself, and grateful to everyone who’s been on this journey with me and helped me get to this point.
The University of Kentucky senior became the first player in school history chosen as the first draft pick when the Atlanta Dream made the first pick to open the draft.
“Rhyne is a versatile wing who can score the ball in a variety of ways,” Atlanta general manager Dan Padover said. “Her athleticism and basketball IQ will be the backbone of her future success in this league. She’s a great kid here and we think she’ll be key for the future of this team. basketball.
Atlanta coach Tanisha Wright agreed and is eager to add Howard to the team’s roster.
“Rhyne is a special talent with a multi-faceted skill set, she’s going to be a great addition to our team,” she said. “She has a quiet competitiveness that I like, and I think the level of play in our league will give her something special that I’m really excited to see.”
Howard plans to take his competitive nature to the next level.
“I just want to do it by my competitive spirit and the will to never give up and always fight and keep my composure and stay calm and cool and collected,” she said. “I think that’s what really helped me succeed and I really want to have an impact on the team, like when I get there, and keep making everyone better.”
Howard, a three-time All-American, finished his career with 2,290 career points and joined Valerie Still and Dan Issel as the only players — male or female — to score more than 2,000 career points. Howard averaged double digits in all four seasons with the Wildcats and averaged 20 or more points per game in his last three seasons, including 23.4 points per game as a sophomore.
The versatile guard averaged 20.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a senior and helped lead Kentucky to its first Southeastern Conference Tournament championship for the first time in 40 years. She scored 18 points in a 64-62 loss to eventual national champion South Carolina in the tournament final. She scored 88 points in the team’s four successful games in the tournament.
Although she was expected to be one of the best players in the pre-season draft, Howard remained focused on “where my shoes where.”
“I knew it wouldn’t have been possible if I was focusing on the next level, which was months ahead so soon,” she said. “It actually wasn’t too difficult because my teammates, like they obviously know what the next level is, but I was like, hey, I’m here for you all, like whatever you need that I do, I’ll do, and I was just there to compete and just work with them and play with them. It was like my senior year in college,
She hopes to build on her success in her next rookie season.
“At the end of my first season, one goal is really rookie of the year, but I want to be on a winning team,” she said. “That’s the end goal.”
Keith Taylor is Kentucky Today’s sportswriter. Contact him at [email protected]aycom and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.