I’m going to call this what it is: complete disrespect.
Kentucky Women’s Basketball guard Rhyne Howard has stockpiled more awards from the 2019-20 season than you can count on one hand; SEC Player of the Year, First-Team All-SEC, First-Team All-SEC Defense, First-Team All-American courtesy of the AP and USBWA, one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy and a top-five finalist for both the Cheryl Miller Award and Wooden Award. Oh, she was also the No. 2 scorer in the whole country at over 23 points per game, tied a program record for most points in a single outing (43), and led her Wildcats to a 22-8 record with a top-20 national ranking throughout the entire season. Howard did all this as a sophomore.
So why did the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association tab Howard as an honorable mention, leaving her off the 10-player First-Team list they released on Thursday? How could one of the two or three best players in all of women’s college hoops find herself as an honorable mention from such a high-profile publication? Well, when we look at the 10 ladies who beat Howard out of a spot, we can quickly identify the issue.
Five of the nominated All-Americans are juniors and the other five are seniors. There is not one underclassman on the list. Let’s also keep in mind that three of the players who made the cut are from Oregon. Only one of the Ducks, Sabrina Ionescu – who will be the No. 1 pick in the next WNBA Draft – had a definitively more impressive individual season than Howard. Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M) and Ty Harris (South Carolina) both were named WBCA All-Americans despite neither beating out Howard for SEC Player of the Year. Carter even played four fewer games than Howard.
I’m not implying that these ladies didn’t earn their spot, rather that Howard simply had a better season than most of them. If they made the cut, then Howard should have, too.
If the WBCA just doesn’t want to recognize underclassman, then they should simply say that. Otherwise, their All-American list cannot be taken seriously. It’s clear that the selection committee either didn’t watch Howard play this season or are purposefully ignoring her accomplishments so they can coddle a few graduating seniors. Only one sophomore has ever won the award; Maya Moore back in 2008-09, who would go on to three-peat as a junior and senior at UConn.
The WBCA prides itself on handing out the Wade Trophy, which their website claims is “The Heisman of Women’s Basketball”. Ionescu deservedly won the award for the 2019-20 past season (her second year in a row taking home the honors) as she was the easy choice for the national player of the year, but for Howard to find herself outside of the top-10 is egregious. Howard will likely finish in the top two or three for the Naismith Trophy AND Wooden Award. So what reasoning can the WBCA confidently provide without sounding bias against underclassmen? The coaches pick this award, there really isn’t any excuse.
If Howard were draft-eligible, she would be a top-three pick right now. She was snubbed – there’s no other way to slice it.