When we talk about national championship basketball in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, we immediately think of places like Northwest D.C. and College Park.
After all, two of the most visible programs in the region reside in those two locales; and folks don’t normally associate schools like Howard University, Bowie State University, or American, with National Championship hardware.
Older, basketball-savvy Washingtonians, however, will tell you that one of the best collegiate basketball teams to ever set foot on a court in the DMV didn’t originate at one of the ‘big’ schools to which we’ve referred.
They’ll tell you to take a short subway ride on the Red Line to the Van Ness campus of the University of the District of Columbia (one of two HBCU institutions in the city). They’ll tell you to take a look on the north wall of the small gym, right above the old-fashioned game clock. There, you’ll see a 1982 NCAA Division II National Banner hanging in silent testimony to the UDC Firebirds as arguably the best basketball team in the region from 1981 to 1984.
The 1982 UDC Firebirds Basketball team, coached by Will Jones, was an eclectic mix of run-and-gun athletic talent. The team became synonymous with the hard-nosed basketball identity of the city itself. Explosive 6’6 forward Michael “P-Bird” Britt and 6’10 power forward Earl Jones spearheaded one of the most exciting and dominant basketball teams in NCAA Division II basketball, leading UDC to a 25-5 overall record and earning the HBCU its first and only National Championship in a victory over Florida Southern. Both Britt and Jones earned All-American and All-tournament honors that year, with Michael Britt being named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player.
Losing to Wright State in the 1983 final, UDC came within a hair of repeating as National Champions with the Britt and Jones duo again as the focal point of the team’s high scoring attack.
Lest we forget these hoop champions.
Herbert Seward is a graduate of the Alabama State University. An HBCU Marching Band enthusiast, his blog A View From the Sidelines, is dedicated to the HBCU Marching Band experience, as well as HBCU culture in general. Sponsored by the 5th Quarter, Inc. “Protecting Our History…Preserving The Craft!” Seward also operates Urban Grassroots, a blog for politics, current events and social change.