Alice Butler, top-ranking women's basketball star, bounced back from injury and disappointment to lead the Lady Firebirds of the University of the District of Columbia to a 21-5 record for 1979-80 -- the best season in the three-year-old school's brief history.
True to her own high standards, Butler, who lives in Lanham, finished the season with a game average of 26.1 point -- best in the area and second in the nation. She also grabbed 18.2 rebounds -- also best in the area and sixth in the country.
When she wasn't popping in her picture-perfect jump shots or snatching rebounds, the 5-foot-9 forward was picking opponents' pockets to the tune of 96 steals -- a team high -- or dishing off to teammates for 77 assists -- second highest for the team.
Butler's feats on the basketball court earned her several postseason honors, in addition to being cited for a national story by Sheridan broadcasting.
She was named Player of the Year by the National Association of Women's Sports and Metro Officials' Player of the Year.
Butler's booming basketball career began during her junior year at DuVal Senior High School in Lanham, where she compiled an average of 28 points and 15 rebounds per game. The following season, she pumped in 25 points and 17 rebounds per game -- and made All-Met for the second year in a row.
Despite such an outstanding record, Butler was contacted by only three schools -- Delaware State, Southern University and American University. She chose AU.
"Bessie Stockard (who was then coach at AU) really showed a lot of interest in me," said the 20-year-old UDC sophomore. "That prompted my decision more than anything else."
Butler went on to lead AU to an 18-2 record in her freshman year with an individual average of 28 points per game -- tops that year among area women.
But setbacks have a way of cropping up, and Bulter suffered a crushing disappointment the following season when Stockard left AU, and Butler herself suffered an injury that prevented her from playing.
Even after she recovered, she decided to sit it out for awhile.
She worked full-time at the AU library while attending classes at night, and continued to keep her game sharp by playing AAU and recreation ball.
Meanwhile, former coach Bessie Stockard was named to take over the women's basketball program at UDC.
"It was an ideal situation for me," Butler recalls. "I was familiar with her as a coach and a person. Plus, they wanted to establish some credibility with the women's basketball programs there and I felt that I could contribute."
Before D.C. Teachers College, Washington Technical Institute and Federal City College merged to become UDC, Federal City perennially fielded one of the top women's basketball teams in the country.
Butler's decision to enroll at UDC last fall generated a lot of interest among women's basketball fans in the area since the UDC women's team had had disappointing 10-12 and 12-10 seasons in 1977 and 1978.
Butler is an outstanding scholar-athlete. Aside from her 3.5 grade point average, she was recently named to the All-American, All-Academic team by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Butler was also one of several athletes invited to the White House to discuss not sending a U.S. team to the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.
The highlight of a season full of high points came when Butler was recently invited to the Olympic trials in Colorado. She was cut, but it was exciting anyway.
"Sure, I was disappointed that I was cut. But if you look at it, it is really an honor to even be considered good enough to be invited."
Out of the spotlight, Butler has another side. She is a correctional administration major at UDC. She chose the major, she said, "because the problems of juvenile delinquency have affected me personally at some time or another.
"I've seen members of my family and others get into situations that could be avoided. I hope that I can one day be in a position where I can address these kinds of problems."
Butler outlined her short- and long-range goals.
"Before I leave UDC, I want to help lay the groundwork for the women's basketball program so that it can become one of the tops in the country," she said.
"My ultimate goal is to graduate and pursue a masters in my chosen field of study. Then I can be in a position where I can deal with some of the problems that have concerned me all my life."