(Washington Examiner) — Jeff Ruland, hometown favorite for his stellar days under the basket for the Washington Bullets in the 1980s, showed up Thursday for a coaches meeting in the University of the District of Columbia’s gym. Practice for the Firebirds’ season doesn’t begin for six weeks, but Ruland is already excited. “We should be able to build on last season,” Ruland tells me. “We have some kids with tons of potential.” Like returning former Division I players Nigel Munson and Brandon Herbert. And a freshman from France. Ruland took over last year and coached the Firebirds to an 11-15 season. The team went 1-20 the year before. I see improvement — and potential. Ruland’s rebuilding of UDC’s basketball squad is a metaphor for the university. Most Washingtonians think of it as a second-rate college for inner-city kids who need remedial courses. That may have been an accurate assessment a decade ago, but UDC is in the midst of a transformation that could turn heads and bring it closer to the league of other land grant colleges.