Bradley's Reuter: We've Got Howard For One More Season

Bearettes Star Will Head To Kentucky To Continue Hoop Career

Friday, November 10, 2017 - by Larry Fleming
Bradley Central basketball sensation Rhyne Howard, center, and the Hughes sisters -- Kaleigh, left, and Halle -- have become so close they each wear a bracelet with Hughwards written on them, noting the combination of last names. Howard, a senior, has signed to play collegiately at Kentucky. Kaleigh  is a junior at Bradley and Halle a freshman at Lee University.
Bradley Central basketball sensation Rhyne Howard, center, and the Hughes sisters -- Kaleigh, left, and Halle -- have become so close they each wear a bracelet with Hughwards written on them, noting the combination of last names. Howard, a senior, has signed to play collegiately at Kentucky. Kaleigh is a junior at Bradley and Halle a freshman at Lee University.
- photo by Contributed

On the day Bradley Central basketball star Rhyne Howard, a TSSAA Miss Basketball finalist as a junior, had a signing party that will lead her to becoming a collegian at the University of Kentucky, Bearettes coach Jason Reuter gave the 6-foot-1 senior the ultimate compliment.

“I’m not predicting how this team will finish this year, but I think I’ve got the best player in the state,” Reuter said.

“She is unlike any player I’ve ever coached here because she can play so many positions. I refer to her as a kind of Magic Johnson at this level.”

On Wednesday, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, who is about to start his 11th season with the Wildcats, signed two players – Howard and Blair Green, of Harlan, Kentucky.

Mitchell echoed Reuter’s assessment about Howard's versatility on the court.

“(Howard) is extremely versatile and can play – if called upon –all five spots on the floor,” Mitchell said. “But not only can she make plays for herself, she can make others better as well.”

All-Star Girl’s Report ranks Howard as the eighth-best overall player in the 2018 class, describing her as “super athletic, leaper, strong, explosive in open court, finishes in traffic and likes up-tempo game.”

ESPN rates Howard a five-star prospect, the 10th-best guard and 31st overall player, adding she is “an elite prospect in the 2018 class.” ProspectNation ranks Howard No. 18 overall.

“Today is really big for me,” Howard said just before starting her signing party ceremony in the lobby of Bradley’s Liberal Arts building. “It means I’m about to do what I’ve been working for since I was little, and that’s to play college ball. It’s a dream come true.”

Reuter didn’t want Howard’s signing get ahead of what’s about to start in a week or so.

“She’s got a full high school season of basketball to play,” he said.

Howard, who started part of here eighth-grade season at East Hamilton before transferring to Bradley Central, has started every game for three seasons with the Bearettes. She was a key figure in the Bearettes winning 32 straight games in 2016-17 before a Sectional loss brought an unexpected end to the campaign – one win shy of another state tournament appearance.

As a junior, Howard average 19.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 steals, 3.8 assists and 1.2 blocks. She scored 647 points, hitting 55 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point distance and 74 percent from the foul line. Her 153 steals ranked third overall in the state.

In addition to finishing runner-up in the Miss Basketball award process, Howard was a unanimous All-Region 3-3A MVP as a sophomore and junior. She enters her senior season with 1,753 career points, 14th all-time at Bradley.

That’s why it was easy for Mitchell to say: “Rhyne Howard is a player that Big Blue Nation is going to be excited about. … Rhyne is another high character person with a great family and we are absolutely  thrilled she decided to become a Wildcat.”

Howard, who committed to Kentucky in mid-May, chose the Wildcats over tons of school trying to lure her to their campuses, including national champion South Carolina.

“Academic-wise, I can get my major in engineering and a side major in business,” Howard said. “Athletically, they have a small roster and I’ve got a chance to play pretty quick. In hanging out with the team up there I just knew Kentucky was the place for me, and I very much like the city of Lexington.”

Reuter will continue to use Howard in various roles this season and feels she can do the same at Kentucky.

“I don’t think anyone will have her playing a lot in the post, but she’ll play anywhere else facing the bucket,” the Bearettes’ coach said.

There have been times when Reuter experimented with devising ways to use Howard’s skills at any of the other four positions, but always came back to playing her at the point guard spot.

“Because I want the ball in Rhyne’s hands,” he said. “Most people think of the point guard as a pass first, score second position. Rhyne can do either one. She triggers our offense. We’ll post her up, throw alley oops to her, we’ll block screen for her and we’ll do all sorts of things.

“When you have a player that special – a Magic Johnson, a Michael Jordan, a Larry Bird, and I’m getting way ahead of myself – on this level that’s what she is to me. She’s going to make the right pass, the right shot, and finish a drive 95 out of one hundred times. When the ball is in her hands good things happen.”

Howard, a soft-spoken senior who lets her on-court play do the talking, has high hopes for the  coming season, despite the Bearettes losing five key players from last year’s squad.

“This team wants to win the state tournament and in my last year I want to help us do that,” she said. “Individually speaking, I’d like to win Miss Basketball – I was honored to be a finalist, but I’m going to work harder this year – and be a McDonald’s All-American. Stuff like that.”

That would be a fitting end to Howard’s illustrious career with the Bearettes.

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 


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