First-Round WNBA Draft Pick Rhyne Howard Joins Florida’s Coaching Staff

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida women’s basketball has finalized its 2023-24 coaching staff by adding the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, Rhyne Howard. Howard, a standout player for the Atlanta Dream, brings a deep connection to Florida, with her mother, Rhvonja (R.J.) Avery, having previously played for the Gators from 1987-91.

Howard joins the team as Florida’s assistant coach and director of player personnel during the WNBA off-season, providing an invaluable opportunity for the Gators to learn from and engage with a successful professional player who once competed in their conference.

Head coach Kelly Rae Finley expresses her enthusiasm, stating, “Surrounding our student-athletes with individuals who can equip them with the skills they need to succeed both on and off the court is of utmost importance to me… Rhyne embodies humility, competitiveness, thoughtfulness, and drive… She is living the dream of many of our student-athletes. Her expertise in the game, coupled with her ability to teach and connect with them both on and off the court, will elevate our program.”

Howard joins the Gators after concluding her 2023 WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream, making it to the first round of playoffs. Throughout the past year, Howard made an impressive mark, tallying 681 points and averaging 17.5 points per game. In her rookie season, she achieved various accolades, including being a WNBA All-Star, WNBA Kia Rookie of the Year, and Associated Press Rookie of the Year. Additionally, she became the first rookie in WNBA history to record four blocks and four three-pointers in her debut.

Prior to her professional career, Rhyne Howard had a remarkable collegiate tenure at the University of Kentucky. She left as the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers, earning the distinction of two-time SEC Player of the Year. In 2022, she was selected as the SEC Tournament MVP, received back-to-back SEC Player of the Year honors from league coaches (2020, 2021), and was named to the All-SEC First Team in all four of her years (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022). Howard also holds the distinction of being Kentucky’s only player in program history to be drafted first overall in the WNBA.

Rhyne attributes her initial passion for the game to her mother Rhvonja (R.J. Avery), who was a part of the Gators roster from 1987-91, serving as captain in 1990-1 and still holding multiple program records. R.J. remains among the top 10 for career steals with 192, boasts one of the highest field goal percentages in Gators history at .521 (176-344), ranks 13th in career rebounding with 777, and is the eighth-fastest Gator to reach 1,000 career points, accomplishing it in just 76 games. Furthermore, she made history at Florida by becoming one of the first female Gators to compete in the US Olympic Festival in 1989.

“When you really think about it, everything has come full circle. My mom was a Gator herself, and I’ve been on this campus multiple times. But now, I have the incredible opportunity to wear the orange and blue, and I know it’s making her proud, as well as everyone who thought I would be a Florida Gator,” Howard expressed. “I always knew that at some point, I would find my way back to this school. Being here and feeling the immense love and sense of family just confirms it all.”

The Gators are ecstatic to have Howard in Gainesville and eagerly anticipate welcoming R.J. Avery back home as well. With the addition of Rhyne Howard, Florida women’s basketball has finalized its roster for the 2023-24 season and eagerly awaits tip-off next month.



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