Washington, DC – University of the District of Columbia Head Women's Basketball Coach, Lester Butler, is looking to take the Women's Basketball Team to new heights after a successful 19-9 campaign in 2010-2011. This season the Firebirds will compete in the East Coast Conference (ECC) for the first time, and they hope to leave an impression as the newest member of the conference.
The Firebirds return ten players from last year's team and have depth at each position. They will be led by seniors Jamilia Bonner (Mobile, AL – Williamson HS) and Jasmine Rich (Willingboro, NJ – Willingboro HS), who represent the Firebirds' dynamic backcourt. Bonner is the returning shooting guard, and she averaged 12.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game last season for the Firebirds. Bonner is an exceptional athlete who can score off the dribble and shoot the long range jumper. Bonner is also considered to be the Firebirds best perimeter defender. Rich is the Firebirds returning point guard and one of the top point guards in the country. Her 5.3 assists per game ranked her thirteenth in the nation last season. Rich was selected as co-captain for 2011-2012. She is a prototypical point guard with good court vision and ability to distribute the ball. She is a perfect fit with Bonner in the backcourt due to her unselfish play and Bonner's scoring ability.
While Bonner and Rich solidify the Firebirds' backcourt, senior forwards Dohnay Banice (Wilmington, DE – Williamson HS) and Stacy Griffith (Fredericksburg, VA – Riverbend HS) provide an interior presence for the Firebirds. Along with Rich, Banice is a co-captain for the Firebirds. Averaging 5.3 rebounds per game last season, Banice should contend as a top rebounder in the conference and the nation in 2011-2012. She is a consistent double-double threat, and her ability to run the floor allows her to be a solid contributor on both ends of the floor. Griffith is another key returner for the Firebirds. As a starting forward, Griffith's ability to shoot the mid-range jumper allows the Firebirds to spread the floor, and her tenacity on the boards supplements Banice for the Firebirds' interior presence.
Another player of note for the Firebirds is guard Lauren Brittingham (Washington, DC – Potomac HS). Having transferred from Pfeifer University, Brittingham returns home to the Washington, DC area and should be an instant contributor in her first season for the Firebirds. Her skill-set includes great ball handling and three-point shooting, and she will contend for significant playing time immediately.
Incoming freshman Denikka Brent (Chesapeake, VA – Booker T. Washington HS) should provide a spark for the Firebirds. Brent is a tremendous athlete, and her ability to shoot the mid-range jumper and slash to the basket should give the Firebirds an offensive threat off the bench. Given her athleticism and unique skill-set, Brent could be one of the best freshmen in the ECC and will compete for significant minutes right away.
Junior guard Janelle Junior (Riverside, CA - La Sierra HS) begins her career as a Firebird looking to compete for playing time at both the point guard and shooting guard positions. Junior is a very smart player, and she brings good quickness and speed to the Firebird lineup.
Senior center Aida Gueye (Alexandria, VA - T.C. Williams Senior HS) is another player who Coach Butler thinks could be a sleeper for the Firebuirds. Aida had a great preseason, has an excellent work ethic, and may be able to break through for some key minutes for the Firebirds.
Head Coach Lester "Jay" Butler had this to say about this year's team, "We have an experienced team this season with ten returners, and I think we are deeper than most teams around the country. Hopefully that bodes well for us as we get into the middle of the season and into conference play. We are excited about our first year in the East Coast Conference and all that the ECC provides our program, including an opportunity to get an automatic bid. Our goal is to win the conference and advance to the NCAA tournament."
The Firebirds open up the season on November 12th at home at 2:00 PM against Chestnut Hill.