The UDC Firebirds Men's basketball team finished the season with 11 victories in their last 18 games, a very nice touch to the 2010-11 season. However, Jeff Ruland and the guys would have loved to have made it a sweeter finish, losing on the road to Central State (O.), 86-84, when a last second shot by Keith Brooks missed the mark and sent the Firebirds home for the year. A year that started with a 0-8 skid ended with impressive regional victories, Division II respect and great promise for 2011-12.
UDC had some turnovers and miscues leading up to the close finish and got a clean look at the buzzer, but it did not go in. Keith Brooks had 19 points and Nigel Munson chipped in the same. Dyrek Jones grabbed 5 rebounds as the Firebirds again went over their average of 80.1 ppg for the 15th time this season.
Coach Ruland's Review
"It is tough playing at Central, but we had our chances. I like how we competed", Ruland said. During their 11 for 18 run, UDC did get 3 tough road wins at Pfeiffer University, Apprentice School, and Alderson Broaddus. They went 8 and 4 for the year at the UDC Sports Complex.
"Overall, the players did what we asked them to do. I think our team played together. I reminded them how far we have come ( 1 and 20 in 2009-10 ). We were starting from scratch. I asked them to believe and hang in there and they did", said Ruland.
The coach went on: "We lost Greg Avila ( 6-6 Fr. post from the Bronx,NY ) early on to a knee injury… the 9th game of the year. We then lost Dyrek at the Alderson-Broaddus game in December. He came back and played the last 4 games and made a difference". The 6-7 soph From Brooklyn, NY, did average 7.6 ppg and led the team with 6 rebs per game as well. It was evident to all who saw him play that he did improve his post moves and scoring opportunities around the basket, as well as become a force with his shot blocking. Jones swatted away 45 shots in the 17 games that he played in this season.
"Nigel Munson made us go", Ruland continued. That was obvious to see as Munson, a 6-2 Jr. guard from DeMatha H.S. (DC) came on at the semester break ( he only played in 18 games this year ) and averaged 18.4 ppg while shooting 80% from the FT line. He also dished out 121 assists with only 46 TO's – a pretty good A/TO ratio. "Nigel could get his shot almost anytime he wanted", Ruland said.
One of the better shooters on the East Coast has to be 6-0 Jr. from Baltimore, MD, Brandon Herbert. This combo guard shot 42% from the arc and 78% from the line for a 19.9 ppg average. He hit many a big shot for the Firebirds and along with Munson, made up one of the highest scoring backcourts in Division II basketball. Both return for their senior seasons next year. Something not lost on Jeff Ruland, his staff and UDC fans as they look forward to an even better 2011-12 campaign.
"Recruiting is going well, we'd like to get another post player and another 3 point shooter", Jeff pointed out. "I'd like to thank the athletic department, especially Pat Thomas (Director of Athletics at UDC) for their support. We have made great strides. I think we can be a NCAA team next year", the coach said.
Fans of the UDC Men's basketball see the same improvement that the coach does. The UDC community should take note. The Firebird will truly be rising at the Sports Complex next November when Ruland and the guys tip it off.