Thunder and Brightening: Jim Ridley, Marvin Avery Prepare Players for College Basketball Opportunities

The leaders of the Mass. Thundercats AAU girls basketball program, from left, coach Marvin Avery, coach Helen Ridley, director Jim Ridley, and coach Mackenzie Charles.

The leaders of the Mass. Thundercats AAU girls basketball program, from left, coach Marvin Avery, coach Helen Ridley, director Jim Ridley, and coach Mackenzie Charles.

Jim Ridley and Marvin Avery have a list of those girls basketball players who have participated in their Mass. Thundercats AAU program and gone on to compete in college basketball programs.

It’s an impressive list and after some of the names, there is an asterisk that denotes that a player has received a full college scholarship.

Ridley and Avery are not only teaching the game, but they are brightening their players’ basketball futures by showcasing their skills at regional and national tournaments in front of college basketball coaches.

“Marvin and I started this AAU program in 1999 and we were called the Eastern Mass. Lightning,” recalled Ridley, former principal at Lynn Tech. “In 2003, we played as the Mass. Cyclones and then when Freddy Hogan started the Mass. Thundercats, he asked Marvin and me if we wanted to lead a girls program and since it was in Lynn, we did it.”

Ridley and Avery are proud of the Thundercats’ alumnae who have completed their college basketball careers and received their degrees. One of those former Thundercats’ players is Ridley’s daughter, Helen, former captain in the Division 1 Quinnipiac University women’s basketball program. Recent graduates Brianna Rudolph (UMass/Lowell) and Sharell Sanders (Caldwell University) of St. Mary’s and Catherine Stinson (Southern New Hampshire) and Diondra Woumn (Franklin Pierce) of English and Kristin Lauria (Westfield State) are also Cats’ alumnae.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the years to be able to train and nurture these players,” said Ridley.

Ridley, who is administrator of the program, brought Avery on board as a coach from the outset. Avery was the head boys basketball coach at Lynn Tech, where he guided the school to a state championship and sent players on to college and the National Basketball Association (Memphis graduate Antonio Anderson).

“We were only going to do it for a couple of years but along came Monique Lee and Takeya Faison from Classical and now you fast forward to today and here we are in our 16th year,” said Ridley.

The program again features some of the top players in the area. Kristin Siscamanis and Nikki Tisotos of Winthrop are already considering offers from colleges. Alex Huffman of KIPP Academy is a strong college prospect. Juniors Nina Bartlette of Winthrop Gianna Moschella of state champion St. Mary’s High School, are also attracting attention from college programs.

Helen Ridley has joined the program as a coach. Mackenzie Charles and Loy Byrd also on the coaching staff.

The Thundercats are competing in the United States Junior Nationals this week in Washington, D.C.

“There are over 300 college scouts and 120 teams from all over the United States and Canada,” said Ridley.

To what does Ridley attribute the success of the Mass. Thundercats organization?

“We tell the girls,  ‘If you think you want to get better and it you think you may want to college, then you should considering joining our program,’’’ related Ridley. “We don’t have tryouts. We go by word of mouth. And I think the beauty of our program is that we only have one team so we can concentrate on that one team.”

That formula has worked very well for the Thundercats and local basketball players have benefited greatly from the leadership, mentorship, and coaching of Jim Ridley and Marvin Avery.

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