Alice Butler had almost everything -- the soft, feathery jump shot, the quick hands and moves to the basket, the uncanny ability to get inside for rebounds or outjump taller foes. Above all, she had court presence.
But something still was missing.
Somewhere, along the way, the former all-Met player from DuVal High in Lanham, Md., now admits she didn't develop that critical self-confident cool all the great players seem to have.
"When I came to college, my confidence was lacking," said Butler, now a sophomore at the University of the District of Columbia. "In college, I just didn't feel I was as good as the other women players I'd read and heard about. I felt the players at the Marylands, the Delta States, the Montclair States and UCLAs were much better than I was.
"That was two years ago. Now, I feel I'm right in their class."
Bulter's attitude change came about because she more than held her own against some of those same "wonder women" last summer while playing in the D.C. Recreation Department League and national AAU competition for the D.C. team.
"I played against some of the top players in the country, including the woman I think is the best around -- Anne Meyers -- and did fine," she said.
Butler, who sat out last year after averaging 28.5 points per game at American in 1977-78, has parlayed the physical skills she has possessed since grade school with a bundle of self-assurance to become the most prolific scorer in the area and one of the top point-makers in the nation.
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Butler is averaging 26.2 points and 17.9 rebounds to rank third in both departments in the AIAW Division I. She also is shooting 49.7 percent from the field, 65 percent from the line and is among the team leaders in steals and assists.
"Alice does so much for us," said UDC Coach Bessie Stockard, who also coached Bulter at AU. "I know she can play and her teammates know she can play; but we don't build our offense around her.
"We run an open offense and any player can take the shot. If I built my offense around Alice, she might score 100 points. But everyone is treated the same. We are a family here. That's our theme song, We Are Family (by Sister Sledge)."
Stockard's family" is 8-3 despite starting three freshman, Stockard feels her young team can win the remaining seven games on the schedule and possibly be selected for the AIAW regional tournament.
"We don't play any of the top 20 women's teams this year, but our schedule will get better each year," said Stockard, who coached the Federal City College (now UDC) teams to five regional crowns from 1971-77. "I'm not being unrealistic. If you look at the players in terms of the players and not in terms of freshman, you see we can go without losing another game."
Doreen Lefeged, a senior transfer from Maryland, and an excellent freshman, former all-Met Theresa Sneed (H. D. Woodson) have been key performers for UDC so far. Also Gwen (Ms. J) Jones, The Washington Post Player of the Year three years ago while at Ballou, becomes eligible in February after overcoming academic problems.
"We have some talented people here at UDC," said Bulter. "We want to build a program together. UDC has the type of program I want to be associated with and I don't feel short-handed being here because it is a small school, so to speak.
"I had grades to go anywhere in the country but I wanted to stay home," said the soft-spoken Butler. "That's why I chose AU in the first place."
Butler's attraction to AU lasted one year. The Eagles won 22 of 24 games that season against mostly mediocre teams and she slowly began to become disenchanted with the program.
"We had a schedule anyone could beat," Butler said, "The school was fine, but the basketball program was going nowhere."
Following the season, Stockard was replaced as the coach. Butler worked out with the team the following season, but developed stomach problems.
"Even though Coach Stockard was gone, I planned to play," insists Butler. "But my stomach was bothering me and I decided to sit out a while. I eventually withdrew from my athletic scholarship. I got a full-time job on campus and continued to take classes. I love basketball but my No. 1 priority is to finish school."
Butler rested all year, then got the go-ahead from her doctor to play "relaxed basketball" last summer. While rumors flew that Stockard would return to UDC, Butler teamed with her former coach in the AAU tournament, and shortly after that, decided to transfer to UDC.
"I had shopped around and had offers to go elsewhere, but I liked Stockard and the athletic director, Orby Moss," said Butler, who is majoring in criminal justice. "Mr. Moss seemed sincere about where the UDC program was heading. Then I found out Stockard was coming to UDC. I was more than satisified."
Stockard, like Butler, had a year off to ponder offers. She also insisted she had no idea Butler was coming to UDC, even though other area coaches believe there was no doubt Butler would follow Stockard.
"I didn't know where she was going," said Stockard, who has taught physical education at FCC-UDC for the past 12 years. "This is like home to me now. I wanted to stay here. It's like starting all over again but I'm happy.
"I had good teams when I was here before and I want to surpass those records," Stockard said. "We'll eventually get where we want to go."
Butler has already taken UDC to heights even the optimistic Stockard never imagined possible this season. In the Firebirds' last game before the Christmas break, Butler poured in a season-high 34 points and collected 18 rebounds to lead UDC to a 76-79 win over Mount St. Mary's. It was UDC's fifth straight win.
"Alice has just become sure of Alice," said Stockard. "That's the one big difference between her two years ago and now. If she doesn't make all-America, I want to know why."
"I guess my strengths are shooting and rebounding," said Butler. "But it doesn't matter who gets the points as long as the job gets done. Oh, I'd like to set a few records while I'm here and I'd like to see us get to the regional tournament. That would be a nice bonus.
"Right noe, we're having fun. We just want to put UDC on the map."