Thunder

Coach Malin Morrison and the personnel of the Ephrata Thunder pose at an October 2019 practice.

Though it boasts a legacy of names like Erving, Malone and Gervin, that’s an unrealistic stretch. Too much elapsed time between that chapter and the one now being written.

But there is more than one way to create a legacy. And for today’s American Basketball Association, that legacy looks like a victory for diversity … thanks in part to the Ephrata Thunder.

Ephrata’s newly minted ABA entry, which opened its debut season Saturday night, is one of three or four teams (according to league officials) with female head coaches. In addition, the sprawling league, which numbers 150 teams across the country, lists as many as 30 female owners.

While the 30-team NBA now includes seven female assistants, the ABA has increased opportunities for women. Like Ephrata head coach Malin Morrison, for one.

“She’s a very demanding coach, and she’s very organized,’’ Thunder forward Tyler Mercer said of Morrison, a native of Sweden who followed her love of hoops all the way across the Atlantic in 1995. She came to play at Wilmington College, but after transferring to Delaware, she decided her education deserved total focus, and became a rec player.

Still, she already had coaching experience in Sweden and she built on it here, coaching boys and girls at all levels for Manheim Central and Lancaster Christian. This year, she met Pottstown Flames owner Stephen Bergman, who planned to start another ABA team in Ephrata.

Things have happened quickly since then. Tryouts began in June, and Morrison has filled a roster of 16. She will activate 10 for each game, she said last week, but all are required to be at each game.

Guard Anthony Jenkins, a Florida native with collegiate and international experience, leaves no room for doubt in how the Thunder players regard their coach.

“Coach never looks intimidating, but we respect her to the utmost,’’ he said. “And if we don’t do certain things in practice, if we don’t run a play right or we’re not going 100 percent, she makes us run and makes us do everything over and over. And we get it imbedded in our brains we won’t do that in the future.

“When you first meet her, she’s a very nice woman. But when she steps inside that gym, her whole demeanor changes.’’

Mercer, a 6-5 forward who graduated from Ephrata High in the spring, said he prefers Morrison to the male coaches he’s known. “She loves work ethic,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented player in the gym. She just wants a set team that goes out there and shows her effort every day and every night.’’

Ephrata’s roster draws heavily from the Philadelphia area, including New Jersey and Delaware. Morrison expects them to be contenders in the 21-team ABA Northeast Region.

“We’re doing it the right way,’’ she said. That includes player salaries, with funds coming in part from “sponsors, supporters and eventually, ticket sales,’’ she said.

Ephrata’s home games, the first of which is Nov. 2, will be played at Warwick High School or Warwick Middle School. Morrison says each game will offer something extra for the community, like promotional nights for local businesses, high schools and colleges.

Earlier this month, the Thunder held a community day that attracted dozens of young hoop dreamers to the Ephrata Rec Center. “So far,’’ Morrison said, “it’s been nothing but positive.’’

And there’s ample reason to expect the same kind of future — not only for players, but also for coaches.


 Connect with Jeff Young, a former LNP sports editor, at youngjeff212@gmail.com.