Rhyne Howard had plenty of opportunities to play in high-profile games as a Bradley Central standout, but the prized exhibition that eluded her was the McDonald's All American Game, which features the 24 best high school basketball players in the country each year.
Thursday when The Associated Press announced its 2020 All-Americans for women's college basketball, Howard wasn't left out.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard was a first-team selection, becoming the first University of Kentucky women's basketball player to receive that honor.
She was joined on the first team by Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu — a unanimous choice and only the eighth three-time selection in the history of the AP All-America women's basketball team — and Ruthy Hebard, Baylor's Lauren Cox and Connecticut's Megan Walker.
Tennessee junior Rennia Davis received honorable mention.
Howard averaged 23.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and hit 84 3-pointers for the Wildcats, who finished their season 22-7 and reached the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals.
"Rhyne is the definition of an All-American and one of those rare players that impacts the game in absolutely every statistical category," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said in a news release from the school. "She's so much more than a prolific scorer. She has zero weaknesses, which makes her the most dynamic player in college basketball. Defensively, she makes incredible plays that you just don't see every day, and her effort on the boards is exceptional and a difference maker.
"Even considering her statistical prowess in every category, her most special quality is her ability to come through in the clutch. There is no player in America who I want to have the ball at a crucial time more than Rhyne Howard. She is a true All-American, and we're proud of all she has and will continue to accomplish."
Howard was bothered when she wasn't named a McDonald's All American as a Bradley Central senior, going on a nine-game tear in which she averaged 29.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.4 steals and 4.6 assists per game for the Bearettes.
"Those games are mainly politics," Howard told the Times Free Press recently. "When you get to college, nobody cares if you're a McDonald's All American. Nobody is looking at you and saying, 'Oh, did you play in the McDonald's All American Game?' When I got to college, I realized that it was a much bigger stage and that I can just come in, work and play hard."
Howard was the SEC and national freshman of the year in 2019, and she was the SEC player of the year and an all-defensive selection for the league this season.
Ionescu is a senior whose bid to lead the Ducks to a national championship — after they reached the NCAA tournament's Final Four last season for the first time in program history — was denied when the season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, she shattered the NCAA career triple-double mark with 26 in her career — including eight in 2019-20 to tie the NCAA single-season mark she already held — and became the first player in NCAA history to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Besides Ionescu, Connecticut's Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart, Duke's Alana Beard, Baylor's Brittney Griner, Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw, Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and South Carolina's A'ja Wilson are the only players to earn AP All-America first-team honors at least three times. Paris and Moore were All-Americans all four years.
Davis, an All-SEC first-team pick, averaged 18.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Lady Volunteers, who went 21-10 and lost to Kentucky in the league tournament's quarterfinals. She had 11 double-doubles and scored in double figures in 28 straight games. She scored 15 or more points 25 times and topped 20 points six times.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.