Kentucky freshman Rhyne Howard earned tournament MVP honors in leading the USA U18 women’s basketball team to the 2018 FIBA Americas Championship gold medal Tuesday in Mexico City.
Howard, a 6-foot guard, scored five points and grabbed four rebounds with four assists and two blocks in a come-from-behind 84-60 gold medal game win over Canada. Those stats don’t tell the whole story as Howard impressed with her consistent play throughout the tournament on a deep and talented team that shared minutes among 11 players.
“I was shocked, but I felt good at the same time, because it meant people thought I was playing well enough to earn the honor,” Howard said about earning the MVP award.
In the final game of pool play last week against Puerto Rico, Howard had 11 points, eight rebounds and six steals. In elimination games, she continued to show her all-around skills with eight points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal against El Salvador and 14 points, five assists, two blocks and two steals against Colombia, including going 4-for-7 from three-point range.
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The team was coached by Louisville women’s head basketball coach Jeff Walz.
Howard was joined on the all-tournament team by Maori Davenport (Charles Henderson High School of Troy, Ala.), Canada’s Christina Morra, Argentina’s Florencia Natalia Chagas and Colombia’s Mayra Caicedo. The win gave Team USA nine straight gold medals in the competition where its overall record is 59-2.
Howard, out of Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, Tenn., was ranked by ESPN as the No. 32 player in the class of 2018 and the No. 10 guard.
The rest of the UK women’s team is currently on a three-game exhibition tour in Italy where it will next play Friday. The Wildcats are 1-1 on the trip. They will join the men’s team at Big Blue Madness on Oct. 12.