Dream guard Rhyne Howard reflects on whirlwind month

Dream guard Rhyne Howard has had quite a month.

On Aug. 16, Team USA announced she was among the invitees to training camp as the Women’s National Team prepares for the 2022 FIBA World Cup later this month. One week later, Howard won the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year award.

Howard now has had roughly two weeks to process that she won one of the league’s top awards.

“It was just great,” Howard said via Zoom. “And then, you know, I had a video that my teammates ran and just some of my close relationships, they congratulated me. It was just great. But I have had a lot of time to myself lately. Just thinking about it, and just thinking about the season and how it went, and what I can improve on. But I’m super blessed to have won that award. And I’m looking forward to more to come.”

Howard had a stellar season after the Dream traded the third and 14th overall picks in this year’s draft to the Mystics for the No. 1 pick, which they used to draft Howard. A former Kentucky Wildcat, Howard became the second Dream player to win rookie of the year, joining Angel McCoughtry (2009).

A Chattanooga native, Howard won Rookie of the Month four consecutive times – in May, June, July and August. She also earned the Eastern Conference Player of the Week in May and was named to the WNBA All-Star game.

Playing in 34 games, she helped lead the Dream to a 14-22 record, which fell just short of the playoffs, averaging 16.2 points (11th overall in the league), 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals. On top of that, she led rookies in 3-pointers with 85, setting a league record.

Even though Howard has taken in her successes from last season, she has already mulled over how she wants to improve for the next.

“I would probably say, getting to the basket more and finishing through contact because I did start doing that at the end,” Howard said. “And it started opening things up for us as a whole. And so just continuing to do that and, you know, converting when I get in there, I feel like that’d be (her) No. 1 (priority).”

Until then, she will use her experience of spreading the floor with the Dream to help her during Team USA’s training camp this week. Howard added that Tanisha Wright, who completed her first season as coach of the Dream, is defensive-minded. So, Howard plans to use defense to help her stand out in training camp.

“With Atlanta and coach Wright, she was all about defense and, you know, pace of our game,” Howard said. “So, just bringing that here, and trying to stand out and be the one that’s doing the dirty work and the deflections, it’s exactly the same stuff that they’re looking for here. So, just converting it from a different team.”

Team USA training camp will run until Sept. 12, and the Red-White game, part of the 2022 USA Basketball Showcase, will take place at 10 p.m. ET Sept. 9 at Cox Pavilion on the campus of Nevada-Las Vegas. The game will air live on NBA TV.

The training camp currently has 28 players hoping to represent the country at the FIBA World Cup, which is set to take place Sept. 22-Oct. 1 in Sydney, Australia. Team USA will choose its final roster before it begins group play Sept. 22, and is looking to pick up its fourth consecutive World Cup.

In addition to Howard, participating athletes include Ariel Atkins, Shakira Austin, Aliyah Boston, Kahleah Copper, Elena Delle Donne, Diamond DeShields, Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Chelsea Gray, Dearica Hamby, Myisha Hines-Allen, Natasha Howard, Sabrina Ionescu, Brionna Jones, Betnijah Laney, Jewell Loyd, Kayla McBride, Angel McCoughtry, Arike Ogunbowale, Kelsey Plum, Aerial Powers, NaLyssa Smith, Breanna Stewart, Alyssa Thomas, Courtney Williams, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young.

The camp will be led by coach Cheryl Reeve (Lynx), assistant coaches Mike Thibault (Mystics), Kara Lawson (Duke) and Joni Taylor (Texas A&M) and court coaches Katie Smith (Lynx) and Curt Miller (Sun).