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SEC Tipoff Blog: Kentucky will be 'Built Different' without Rhyne Howard

344 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: Jimmie Mitchell/SEC

Welcome to the SEC Basketball Media Days Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event, held this year in Birmingham, Ala., the unofficial start of college basketball season. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.

Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy can't escape the question. No matter how many times she's asked, the answer doesn't change.

"People keep asking, 'What do you do without Rhyne Howard?' You don't replace a Rhyne Howard. She was a once-in-a-lifetime player that we had the privilege to coach."

Howard led Elzy's third UK team to a stunning run through the 2022 SEC Tournament. The Wildcats knocked off Mississippi State, LSU, Tennessee and eventual national champion South Carolina to earn the program's second SEC Tournament title, its first since 1982.

Howard was named a First-Team AP All-American for the third time, became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft and was named WNBA Rookie of the Year.

Elzy addressed the void left by Howard's departure when she chose this season's theme for her team: Built Different.

"We don't have a superstar," she said, but the roster is not without talent. Sophomore guard Jada Walker, who played in every game and started 22 of them as a freshman, will be counted on to take another step forward.

"If you give me something to do, I'll do it," Walker said. "If I have to lead, I'll lead."

Walker showed her confidence in herself and her teammates when she arrived Tuesday wearing her SEC Tournament Championship ring. She was the team's only freshman a year ago and said it was a challenge to blend with the veteran Wildcats.

"It was definitely hard," she said. "I can't expect anything this year to be that hard."