By JOE CANNON
MURFREESBORO — Accomplishing yet another goal she had set for her final high school season, Rhyne Howard further cemented her spot in Bradley Central sports lure Tuesday evening.“The Magic …
MURFREESBORO — Accomplishing yet another goal she had set for her final high school season, Rhyne Howard further cemented her spot in Bradley Central sports lure Tuesday evening.
“The Magic Johnson type player” earned the school’s second Miss Basketball award from the TSSAA in a special ceremony at the Murphy Center.
“This means a lot to me. I have worked very hard to improve my game, and to be recognized with this award is very special,” declared the 6-foot-2 all-around standout.
One of only five Bearettes to ever be named a finalist for the prestigious award, Howard was the runner-up to current Lady Vol Anastasia Hayes last year.
Claiming the top Class AAA honor this time around, Howard was one of 10 players who were named Miss and Mr. Tennessee Basketball in five different classifications.
By earning the award, the Kentucky signee joins Brittany Jackson as the storied program’s only winners, as well as being the only ones to be named finalists two years in a row.
Jackson, also a former Lady Vol, made the final three as a junior in 2000 before winning the crown in 2001.
Other Bearette standouts that were finalists include: Jackie (Pickel) Davis in 2006, and teammates Amy (Geren) McGowan and Paige Redman in 1995.
Davis went on to play at Middle Tennessee, while McGowan played for Clemson and Redman for Vanderbilt.
“I have been stressing about this some, but now it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. This is going to motivate me even more to play well going into the state tournament tomorrow,” Howard said after Tuesday’s evening ceremony.
Nationally ranked Bradley (32-0) opens its record 32nd TSSAA State Tournament this afternoon at 2:15, facing Daniel Boone (30-4), No. 9 in the final Associated Press Poll of the season, in a quarterfinal contest.
“She (Howard) has taken the bull by the horns this year, especially the last month, and has led us back to the state tournament,” assessed Bearette head coach Jason Reuter.
“She led us to a 32-0 record again this season, with no other girls on the team receiving any scholarship offers at this time.
“I think some of our others will receive scholarship offers eventually, but she’s our only senior. She’s our only returner from our top six last year, when we also went 32-0 before we lost in the substate.”
Reuter is one hoops expert who has constantly made the Magic Johnson comparison in reference to Howard.
“She’s so unselfish, sometimes to her own detriment. She keeps all her teammates involved in the game. She’s just as happy to give them a pass to score as she would be to score herself.
“I’ve been blessed to have been able to coach her for four years,” the veteran mentor stated. “She’s the best I’ve ever coached, and I don’t know if I will see another to match her.
“I’ve had some very incredible players, but none that have had her all-around talent. I’ve had some that were very good at certain parts of the game — whether it be shooting, rebounding, defense, passing — but she does it all,” Reuter explained.
“She’s the only girl I’ve ever coached who can play all five positions as well as she does.
“We had our fingers crossed. We felt really good coming up here, as she was the only returning finalist (in Class AAA girls), but the underlying factor is what she’s done for our team this year.”
Having been named a 2018 Naismith All-American Honorable Mention on Monday, Howard claimed the award over fellow finalists Brinae Alexander of Riverdale, who has signed to play for Vanderbilt, and Memphis Ridgeway’s Elizabeth Dixon, who is heading to Georgia Tech.
Howard is scoring a career-high average of 22.5 points per game heading into the state event, including making 54 percent of her shots in front of the 19-foot arc and 41 percent from beyond it. She has also netted 106-of-149 free throws.
The four-year starter has passed 11 Bearettes on the storied program’s all-time scoring list this season and holds the mark for the most points (2,474) in a Black and Gold uniform since the girls game converted to 5-on-5 play in 1978.
She also scored 151 points as an eighth-grader on the East Hamilton varsity, bringing her overall prep total to 2,625.
Howard is third overall behind Bearette legend Data Caldwell (3,011) and Liz Hannah (Jackson) (2,693), who played in the 1970s when coach Jim Smiddy was winning several state, and a couple of national, championships in the old 6-on-6 style of play, which limited where players designated as playing certain positions could be situated on the court.
Ranked as the eighth-best player in the nation overall in the Class of 2018 class according to All-Star Girls Report, Howard has recorded 11 double-doubles and a triple-double this season.
The three-time unanimous District 5-AAA Player of the Year and Region 3 MVP has cleaned the glass for 241 rebounds (7.5 rpg), copped 172 steals (5.4 stp), handed out 130 assists and blocked 38 shots, while committing just 33 turnovers in the current 32-game winning streak.
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