2022 WNBA #1 draft pick Rhyne Howard joins Florida WBB coaching staff

Story: Meg Christenson, Florida Athletics

Florida women’s basketball has rounded out their 2023-24 coaching staff by adding the number one overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, Rhyne Howard. Howard plays for the Atlanta Dream and has ties to Florida dating back to 1987-91 when her mother Rhvonja (RJ) Avery, played for the Gators.

Howard’s new role as Florida’s Assistant Coach and Director of Player Personnel will span throughout her WNBA off-season, giving the Gators a chance to learn and interact with a successful pro player who once competed in their conference.

Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley comments, “It has always been important to me that we surround our student-athletes with people who can help equip them with the skills necessary to succeed as professionals on and off the court… Rhyne is humble, competitive, thoughtful, and driven… She is living many of our student-athlete’s dreams. Her knowledge of the game combined with her ability to teach and connect with them on and off the court will elevate our program.”

Howard comes to Gainesville after her 2023 WNBA season closed out in the first round of playoffs. Howard secured 681 points for the Atlanta Dream this past year, averaging 17.5 a game. Her rookie year in the league was no different, earning WNBA All-Star, WNBA Kia Rookie of the Year, Associated Press Rookie of the Year, and being the first rookie in WNBA history to record four blocks and four three-pointers in their debut.  

Prior to the WNBA, Rhyne Howard spent her collegiate career at the University of Kentucky where she left as the program’s top three-point shooter of all-time, earned two-time SEC Player of the Year, was selected as the SEC Tournament MVP in 2022, was named SEC Player of the Year by league coaches two years in a row (2020, 2021), and made All-SEC First Team by league coaches in all four of her years (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022). Howard is also Kentucky’s only player in program history to be drafted first overall by a WNBA franchise.

Rhyne credits her mom Rhvonja (RJ Avery) for developing her initial passion for the game. Rhvonja was on the Gators roster from 1987-91, serving as captain in 1990-991, and still holds multiple program records. RJ is in the top ten for career steals with 192, holds one of the highest field goal percentages in Gators history at .521(176-344), is ranked 13th in career highs for rebounding with 777, and is the eighth-quickest Gator to score 1,000 career points, doing it in 76 games. Rhvonja also made Florida history by becoming one of the first female Gators to compete in the US Olympic Festival (1989). 

“When you really think about it everything is full circle, my mom was a Gator herself and I have been on this campus multiple times, but to actually be able to wear the orange and blue, I know it’s making her proud, I know it’s making everyone who thought I was originally going to be a Florida Gator proud,” Howard comments on her decision to join the Florida family. “I always knew at some point that I would have the connection back with this school and just to be here and to be loved and to feel how much of a family it is already just confirmed all that.” 

The Gators are thrilled to have Rhyne in Gainesville and are looking forward to welcoming RJ Avery back home as well. With the official hire of Rhyne Howard, Florida women’s basketball has completed its 2023-24 roster and eagerly awaits tip-off next month.

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