Best Local Hoop Squad
University of the District of Columbia Firebirds
Jeff Ruland swears he’s going to turn around a program that has been all but killed off. Ruland, a former Washington Bullets center, is starting at the bottom. The Firebirds captured local hoop fans hearts in the early 1980s, when they had the strongest NCAA Division II squad in the land. But nothing’s gone well athletically over at the Van Ness campus for over two decades. A 2008 investigation into the school’s entire athletic program found what NCAA officials later called “the single most egregious lack of institutional control ever seen” at a member school. Ruland took over the program just a week before the current school year started. With no time to recruit, he ended up leading a gang made up of mostly walk-ons to a 1–20 record this season. For much of the season Ruland’s roster had only five players. If a player fouled out or got nicked, UDC had to play with just four players. But things are going to start looking up soon. Ruland says next time around he’ll have three Division I transfers, including Brandon Herbert from Binghamton, plus Nigel Munson, a DeMatha All-American who fled Virginia Tech after one year. Ruland says he expects a lot of wins and a full house at UDC’s athletic center next season. Just like the old days.