July 13, 2022 

Rhyne Howard in Chicago: praise from all angles

"She's different," Candace Parker said

An exciting All-Star weekend in Chicago was only complete with its sole rookie: the Atlanta Dream’s Rhyne Howard.

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Howard, who was drafted by the Dream first overall in the 2022 draft, has been having an incredible rookie season, playing a huge role in the Dream’s surprising success. But this weekend was less about Rhyne’s Dream team and rather a fun-filled weekend on Team Wilson.

Howard, alongside the Las Vegas Aces’ Kelsey Plum, were the only two players who competed in all three of the weekend’s activities: the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest and Skills Competition and the full All-Star game.

“A part of All-Star Weekend is just having fun and I feel like those events are fun,” Howard told media ahead of the Saturday competition.

On Saturday afternoon in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Howard and her AAU partner Danielle Carnegie set out for Skills Competition success against Kelsey Plum and AAU teammate Ari Long. 

Carniege helped Howard take a lead over Plum; however, some confusion going into the three-point finish caused a first-round loss for Howard and Carniege.

“Listen, we had practice and I was still over there shooting, and everyone was in skills talking about the rules,” Howard adamantly defended to The Next. “I’m like, ‘Why nobody come to get me about the rules?’” 

So, a lack of rules knowledge held the rookie back. However, the day was just beginning, with the Three-Point Contest about to take off.

Howard had an incredible showing in the first round, knocking down shot after shot, particularly in her first couple racks. She and Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins scored 24 points, advancing them to the next round with then three-time Three-Point Contest winner Allie Quigley.

Unfortunately for Howard, she had a tough second-half showing, only scoring half of her previous round. Quigley made headlines with her usual dominance, scoring 30 points and making her the only four-time Three-Point Contest winner of any basketball league, men’s or women’s.

“Just to be able to challenge [Quigley] for a little bit in that first round was something that you can only wish for,” Howard said. “Her and [Courtney Vandersloot] … told me that if anybody was going to be a challenge or who could win they thought it would be me.”

High praise from some of the best to ever do it. But that was the theme for Howard across the weekend. 

“Beast,” said the Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles about the rook.

“Becky [Hammon] and I were talking about Rhyne Howard and just how she’s just different,” Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker told media. “The way she moves, the way she pulls up, I know there’s little things that maybe the fans don’t see, but like us players see. Like the spin she puts on the ball when she’s laying it up. She’s different.”

The league’s greats identified Howard as a generational talent, and she didn’t disappoint in the main event.

With the love of her Dream teammates courtside in Wintrust and home team announcer, Howard put up 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists in 15 minutes. Although it wasn’t a show stopper, she had one of the best reserve performances across the teams, with only the Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd outscoring her.

But more than just individual performance, she helped take home the win for Team Wilson. 

Howard expressed excitement about her immediate drafting to Team Wilson in the week leading up to the game.

“I really wanted to be on A’ja’s team so for her to take me first is a big honor,” she told The Next

She and Wilson have a longstanding friendship that began way before the W.

“It started a long, long time ago when she was still in college and I came to one of their camps. Ever since then we’ve been pretty good friends,” Howard explained.

This mutual love was evident in Chicago from their social media shout outs and Howard teasing Wilson about wearing a Plum shirt instead of a Howard shirt during the Three-Point Contest.

Ultimately, Howard walks away from the weekend with a team win and a boatload of praise from some of the league GOATs. Her response?

“It gives me confidence and it gives me a lot of hope to be able to achieve what they’ve achieved in their careers,” the rookie said.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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