September 9, 2022 

Rhyne in Vegas: 2022 Rookie of the Year takes World Cup training camp

It's mostly fun and games at USAB Training Camp

With the USA Basketball logo across her chest and surrounding her, Rhyne Howard is beaming, answering questions about her first-ever USA Basketball (USAB) Women’s National Team training camp.

It’s been nearly a month since the end of Howard’s rookie WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream, and despite a single-game miss of the playoffs, the excitement hasn’t ceased for Howard.

On Aug. 16, Howard was named to the USAB training camp roster in Las Vegas in preparation for the 2022 FIBA World Cup. Nine days later, the WNBA announced her 2022 Rookie of the Year win.

Regarding Rookie of the Year, Howard expressed gratitude despite a lack of surprise.

“I’m super grateful for [the award],” Howard told The Next after the news. “It’s not a surprise to most, and I feel like I definitely put the work in for it to be not a surprise.”

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And although her Rookie of the Year clinch was somewhat expected from the moment she stepped on the court in May, she told media that she learned a lot with the Dream she’s bringing to USAB.

“Spread the floor,” Howard replied about what she’s learned. “With Atlanta and Coach Wright, she was all about defense, and pace of our game. So just bringing that here and trying to stand out and be the one that’s doing the dirty work and the deflections is exactly the same stuff that they’re looking for here.”

She’s bringing in new skills this season, but it’s far from her first rodeo with USAB. Howard has been on USAB Youth teams since 2018, where she won three gold and one silver medal in addition to a 2021 FIBA AmeriCup MVP, 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup All-Star Five, and 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship MVP.

During those tournaments, Howard played alongside current training camp teammates, South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston and Indiana Fever forward NaLyssa Smith. Boston, the only invitee still in college, has been fielding advice from Howard and the other newbies at this National Team training camp.

“It’s just great to have her because I feel like we’re on the same page. You know, I look at her and she’s like, ‘I’m tired too,’” Howard told media. “Most of us have just talked about training camp, and what we do there because that’s probably the hardest part of the whole year. We just tell her, ‘It’s going to be a lot of running. It’s gonna be similar to this, except two-a-days.’”

And according to USAB social media, the two don’t stray far from one another.

Rhyne Howard and Aliyah Boston are attached at the hip during a Sept. 9 shootaround (Photo credit: USAB Twitter)

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In addition to Boston, Howard told media she’s also formed a close bond with the Minnesota Lynx’s Aerial Powers. The two have bonded over gaming, and are teaching each other a thing or two.

“We found out we play games, so ever since then, we’ve both been pretty close,” Howard told media. “She was teaching me how to play Call of Duty and I was actually really bad at it… So I’ve taught her how to play [Fortnite]… I can tell we’re going to be friends for a long time.”

It’s all fun and games until the conclusion of training camp on Sept. 12, a roster will be selected to travel to Australia to play in the World Cup and represent the U.S. Howard emphasized her focus on learning and, regardless of her roster status, that she’ll remain in the pool for future competition.

“At the end of the day, I’m really just here for the experience and just to have a good time and to take something and learn it,” Howard said. “Motivation is really just being the best that USA needs and keep the standards that we have.”

On Friday night, Howard will join the Red Team in an internal scrimmage at UNLV. The scrimmage is being broadcast on NBA TV at 10 p.m. ET.

If selected out of the pool, Howard will travel Down Under with 11 other players and compete at the World Cup from Sept. 22 to Oct. 1.

And as is the dichotomy for so many women’s basketball players, when Howard leaves USAB, either after Australia or Vegas, she’ll head to Italy, where she’ll play for Famila Wuber Schio this offseason. Fortunately for Howard, her young status in the league deems her exempt from the exploding prioritization debate.

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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