By PATRICK MacCOON
Although overlooked in one prestigious ranking, Bradley Central standout Rhyne Howard has earned several others with the latest coming Monday, when she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year …
Although overlooked in one prestigious ranking, Bradley Central standout Rhyne Howard has earned several others with the latest coming Monday, when she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Tennessee.
It marks the first time in its illustrious program’s history, one with more wins than any other athletic program in the state, that a Bearette has won the award.
Excelling in the classroom (3.62 GPA), being an active member of the community in helping serve as a role model in her youth group or by volunteering at the Special Olympics, Howard exemplified in more ways than one why she was a fit for the honor.
“Being the Gatorade Player of the Year for Tennessee in girls’ basketball is a huge honor for me,” Howard said. “I try not to let any of the awards get to my head, but it does feel great because I worked hard and pushed myself to be the best I can.”
She is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year, which will be announced later this month. All finalists have demonstrated athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Howard has collected awards just like she filled the stat sheet, as the Kentucky signee was the second Bearette to win Miss Tennessee Basketball. Her unique talent also earned a selection as a Naistmith All-Americn honorable mention as well as being chosen to play in a nationally televised all-star game, established by NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
Howard was one of 24 girls invited to participate in the Jordan Brand Classic, which will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sunday, April 8, at 3:30. Former UConn superstar Maya Moore initiated the women’s match-up in 2015.
“Being invited to the Jordan Classic, one that LeBron James and other superstar players have played in, is a pretty cool feeling,” said Howard, whose favorite movie is "Space Jam."
“I am excited about the future. I believe with the help of my coaches and teammates the sky will be the limit.”
As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Howard will receive a $1,000 grant to donate to a national or local youth sports organization of her choice as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program.
Howard was ranked by ESPN as the No. 31 player for the Class of 2018, while the five-star prospect was also considered the eighth-best player in the country by All-Star Girl’s Report.
“I want to accomplish my dreams,” Howard said. “I want to help Kentucky play at a high level. It’s also been a dream of mine to play in the WNBA, ever since I was a little kid.”
Howard played five prep seasons, totaling 2,662 career points in four years at BCHS and playing in half of East Hamilton’s varsity games as an eighth-grader.
In her Bearette career, the 6-foot-2 point guard netted 2,499 points, cleared 969 rebounds, copped 558 steals, dished out 544 assists and blocked 194 shots.
Along with posting a 119-12 overall record, she led 32- and 33-game wininng streaks for Bradley in her junior and senior seasons, while also helping her team advance to the Class AAA state semifinals twice.
While not chosen to the McDonald’s All-American team, Howard followed up that perceived snub by posting an immaculate 13-game stretch of 29.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.4 steals, 4.6 assists, 3.8 3-pointers and one block per game in just 24 minutes of average playing time.
In her statement run, the Bearettes' all-time leading scorer in 5-on-5 basketball shot 68 percent overall from the field, plus 56 percent from 3-point land and 82 percent from the free throw line.
Her season totals in 25.4 minutes per game were also impressive: 22.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.2 steals (state best), 4.1 assists, 2.7 3-pointers and 1.2 blocks per contest.
The three-time unanimous District 5-AAA Player of the Year and Region 3 MVP is a unique player, making her No. 23 a one-of-a-kind number in Bearette history.
—Banner Assistant Sports Editor Joe Cannon contributed to this story.
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