The dedication of Ripley basketball player Sophie Nichols pays off for her and her team

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

John Kennedy is certainly getting his money’s worth this season from a player named Nichols.

“The sky is the limit for her,” said the hard-working Ripley Lady Viking head coach about his sophomore standout Sophie Nichols.

Like her coach, Nichols is a worker.

She has aspirations of playing basketball at the next level.

“My dream is playing past high school,” said Riley sophomore Sophie Nichols. “So I want to be in the gym all the time.”

And in her mind, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in all the things she wants to do in order to improve her game.

But she tries to maximize each day the best she can.

And that starts with spending time in the gym and getting up shots before school starts and then doing the same after practice in the evening.

“My dream is playing past high school,” she said. “So I want to be in the gym all the time.”

And make no mistake, her dedication to basketball doesn’t at all get in the way of taking care of business in the classroom.

Nichols carries a 4.0 GPA.

She has been one of the key contributors to this 2021-22 Lady Viking squad.

“She’s got the height, length, shooting ability and mindset to do special things for us and herself,” Kennedy said.

The Lady Viking leader joked that her father, Steven, should be in excellent shape for all the rebounding he’s been doing in recent years.

Nichols feels her shooting has improved tremendously from all the extra hours she’s put in.

“I’m hitting deeper 3s,” she said.

Nichols feels the ability to drain 3s has opened up other aspects of her game.

“I’m able to drive to the basket more,” Nichols said.

Nichols loves watching basketball with her father, not only going over the games in which she's played but those on television.

She refers to Kennedy as “a second dad” for the confidence he’s given her beginning with last season.

While nervous entering that first season as a Lady Viking, Nichols settled down almost immediately due to Kennedy’s guidance.

“I can go to him for anything really,” she said. “He’s just a great coach.”

Kennedy’s leadership has rubbed off on Nichols.

Even though she is just a sophomore, Nichols is both a leader on the court and throughout the hallways of Ripley High School. It is something she has taken great pride in during her high school days.

Ripley Lady Viking Sophie Nichols eyes a teammate during a recent game. Nichols, a sophomore, has been instrumental in Ripley's success so far in the 2021-22 season.

She loves her teammates and classmates. One teammate she has certainly built a special bond with is junior McKennan Hall.

They have given Kennedy’s squad quite the 1-2 punch.

“We have great chemistry on the court and we are so tight off the court,” Nichols said.

Kennedy can hardly believe what he is seeing from Nichols in a relatively short amount of time.

“Sophie has grown tremendously over a season and a half,” Kennedy said. “Her tenacity on both ends of the floor keeps climbing up and college coaches are taking notice.

“She should be proud of herself, just like we are. The determination to be one of the best in the state has coaches game-planning against her and she still finds ways to put the ball in the hoop.”

As a former point guard who had a special ability to distribute the ball, Kennedy (a former Ripley standout) loves the overall game Nichols brings night in and night out.

“Sophie is a very selfless player. She enjoys the successes of her teammates,” Kennedy said. “That’s a rare quality in today’s society.”

Nichols loves the game of basketball whether she is in the heat of competition or showing support from the bench.

“There have been some games I’ve had to tell her to get off the court when she’s out of the game because she’s going to get us a technical,” he said. “She has a ton of passion and excitement for her teammates when they do well. She’s a special player and a special young lady.

“Young players need to take notice of her hard work and dedication to being the very best and mold themselves just like Sophie.”

With a player like Sophie Nichols, Lady Viking basketball should be cashing in with lots of wins the next few seasons.

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Recent games for the Lady Vikings included a win over Point Pleasant and a tough loss to Logan.

Ripley shot out to a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter against Point Pleasant and dominated the fourth, 24-2, leading to a decisive victory of 62-22.

Hall had 17 in the win while Nichols dropped in 16. Erin Ryan was also in double figures with 12. Morgan Shanklin scored eight, Kyanah Baldwin hit for seven and Corbin Casto added two.

Before the year of 2022 rolled around, Ripley dropped a 72-66 decision to Logan.

Hall had 20, Nichols scored 18 and Baldwin finished with 14. Ryan added nine, Shanklin scored three and Ellie Hosaflook had two.