Sisters at Arundel lift top team, one another

Basketball: The play of Janae Butler and Danae Brownlee reminds their mother of their late father, a former Anne Arundel County standout.

High Schools

February 19, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

There's a sister act on Arundel's top-ranked girls basketball team, but it's not easy to find.

Scroll down the roster or listen to player introductions, and you won't have a clue. Every player has a different last name.

Then take a second look at the roster ... hmm ... Janae and Danae, and watch junior forward Janae Butler and sophomore guard Danae Brownlee play together.

FOR THE RECORD - A photograph of sisters Danae Brownlee (above left) and Janae Butler, members of the top-ranked Arundel high school girls basketball team, which was supposed to accompany an article about them, was omitted in yesterday's edition.

"Yeah, they're sisters. It's a fun thing when they're looking for each other and you see them smiling," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers. "They get on each other's case sometimes because they want to see each other get better, and they're very supportive of each other in that way."

It has been mostly smiles this season at Arundel, where the Wildcats -- 18-2 after last night's 68-28 victory over visiting North County -- are working on a perfect 14-0 county mark going into tomorrow night's showdown against No. 9 South River.

Resourceful inside work from Butler and poised first-year varsity play from Brownlee have complemented returning county Player of the Year Alex McGuire and standout point guard Ana Baker.

The sisters -- Danae was given her mother's maiden name when their father, Annapolis High standout James Butler, died before she was born -- grew up playing basketball. At 5 feet 10, Butler, 16, has three inches on her sister, 15. She contends that she always wins when they play one-on-one. In games of H-O-R-S-E, however, Brownlee's jumpers often prevail.

Brownlee has gone from JV standout last season -- she led the team in every statistic -- to varsity starter. Averaging 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and two assists, she also is a pest on defense.

Butler, in her second varsity season but first as a starter, absorbed a lot last season playing behind standout Tiffany Johnson and is now applying what she has learned, averaging 13.8 points and 11.1 rebounds.

"I worked on my post moves over the summer, and I think I'm quicker and stronger from last year," she said. "Danae worked her way up to the starting lineup and is doing a good job. She'll lead this team when all of us leave."

The sisters' mother, Jade, sees comparisons between the girls and their late father, James Butler, a 1986 Annapolis grad. He was the Panthers' all-time career scoring leader (1,324 points) before Thomas Hawkins broke the record in the 1999-2000 season.

A pure shooter with three-point range before the three-point line was in play, Butler was named The Sun's Anne Arundel County Basketball Player of the 1980s.

"I see similarities between Janae and her dad. Out on the court, he'd be yelling, and I see that in Janae and I'm shaking my head, `You know what, that's her dad.' And Danae looks more like him," said Jade.

For Butler and Brownlee, basketball is sandwiched between schoolwork (both are B students) and chores. Jade is a single mom with three younger children -- Jamika, 13, Dereka, 10, and Lance, 7. She takes nursing classes five days a week and works full time at the Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Some days she leaves the cooking to Janae, while Danae helps with the laundry and in the morning gets the younger siblings ready for school.

"During basketball season, everything is kind of hectic around our house, but they know it's homework, then basketball, then chores. I'm very proud -- I have good kids and proud of them all," Jade said.

Janae, who says "it's fun being the oldest because I get to tell them what to do and teach them what's right and wrong," can definitely serve it up: spaghetti is Lance's favorite; Jamika likes the rice and broccoli dish; and Dereka asks for seconds on macaroni and cheese. Everybody in the house talks about Janae's tacos.

On the court, especially with the family courtside for every Wildcats game, the sisters are enjoying their time together.

"It's fun playing with her," Brownlee said. "I try to find her a lot and she tries to find me a lot. We connect like that."

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