For years, life in the Paradie household revolved around the fast-pitch softball power hitting of Verne Sr. and youth baseball exploits of Verne Jr.

That was fine with the future Tammy Thibeault, who was three years younger than her brother and content with whatever was perceived as little-girl activity in those days.

When friends encountered her and strangers met her, however, the first words to Tammy were almost always the same.

“I was in fourth grade, and I was almost as tall as I am now,” said Thibeault, who was listed at 6-foot-1 in high school and 6-2 in college.  “People would say, ‘You need to play basketball. You can play. Everyone in your family is athletic.’ So I started playing with the boys, and after that I loved it. You couldn’t keep me away from it.”

Indeed, you couldn’t, for most of her young adult life.

Paradie starred at Edward Little High School, Westbrook College and the University of Maine at Farmington. She even made a one-semester comeback at Central Maine Community College, a few months shy of her 30th birthday.


For size, skill, longevity, productivity and her status as a groundbreaking female athlete in her community, Thibeault will be inducted Sunday into the Auburn/Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.

She will be joined in that ring of honor by her brother. Their father was instrumental in the nomination process before succumbing to cancer in November 2013.

“I’m very excited that he’s part of it. He’s going to present me, and I’m thankful for that,” Thibeault said. “Somebody else is going to present him. I’m going to have all I can do to get up there and speak myself.”

Thibeault did her talking “in the paint,” that area underneath the basket where few high school or college opponents could successfully match up.

She is one of three women to enter the hall this spring from a class of five. Even though Thibeault grew up in a post-Title IX world, however, she felt no great push to play sports from a young age. It started as more tradition than passion.

“We were always a sports-oriented family,” she said. “We were always at the softball field with my dad, or we were going somewhere for baseball with my brother.”


It didn’t take many visits to YMCA Biddy Basketball before Thibeault was grouped with older players, since there was no way to match her by height.

That trend continued when she entered high school. Auburn ninth-graders still attended Walton School at that time before moving to EL as sophomores, but Coach Cheryl Rich and the girls’ basketball program made an obvious exception.

“That was kind of a change, because everybody I’d played with all the way up through was still at Walton,” Thibeault said.

Thibeault was a junior when fellow A/L hall-of-famer Val Brown Ackley was a senior. That EL team was the first in school history to reach a regional final, losing in the 1992 Class A West title game.

As a senior, Paradie led the SMAA in rebounding and was second in scoring. She was the first girl to surpass 1,000 career points for the Red Eddies.

“The times we went to the tournament were the best memories, even though we never quite won it all,” Thibeault said. “Just to play with Val was great. There were so many exciting times. All the friendships we made. We were a close team.”


Thibeault’s size, strength and scoring punch were a magnet for college recruiters.

She didn’t quite share their enthusiasm. At a time when high school stars such as Cindy Blodgett, Amy Vachon and Katie Clark were about to put Maine on the national map for their state university, Thibeault simply wanted basketball to stay in the picture, not dominate it.

“I wanted to play in college, and a lot of Division I and Division II coaches were calling and showing interest, but I didn’t want them to own me,” Thibeault said. “I didn’t want to go just for basketball. I wanted to enjoy the college experience.”

Thibeault chose the upstart program at Westbrook College. Today, the site is a satellite campus of the University of New England, but for a brief stretch it was a shooting star in both men’s and women’s basketball on its own.

In addition to winning her conference’s player of the year award as a freshman, Paradie led Westbrook to a national ranking and the NAIA national tournament. She was the fourth-fastest woman to reach 1,000 career points in Maine college basketball history, and to this day she is listed in the UNE record book as scoring the most points in a single season in school history.

“That was excellent. It was a family environment,” Thibeault said. “The college experience was even better than high school.”


After two years at Westbrook, Paradie matriculated at UMF to complete her bachelor’s degree.

She sat out a semester after the transfer before joining the basketball team. That would come into play later, when she settled on a career change and pursued a nursing degree at CMCC.

In an unique twist, the coach who recruited her to Westbrook, Mike Bridges, led the CM program at the time. So in an even more unusual turn of events, Thibeault used her remaining eligibility to suit up for a two-year program long after her four-year playing days were over.

“It was a little awkward. Here are all these 18-year-old girls and I’m almost 30. But it was a great team,” said Thibeault, who shared the court with former Lewiston High School stars Lynn Girouard and Lakeesha Holloman.

Now closing in on the next milestone birthday, Thibeault is contemplating another comeback.

Thibeault stepped away from the women’s recreational league two years ago to focus on work and her family. She has two daughters, 15 and 8. The older one, her mother said lovingly, “doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body.” The younger is playing Y-Biddy basketball.

“I work three 12-hour shifts a week now, and if I play ball, that’s a fourth night away from home,” Thibeault said. “I don’t want to miss that time with my kids. But every year they leave messages on my voice mail. ‘You should come play.’ One of these years I know I probably will.”

She has acquiesced to that pressure before, after all.

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