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The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

Meet Maleia Bracone, N.C. A&T’s clutch shooter and defensive specialist

Kevin Dorsey
Maleia Bracone won 2023-24 Lady Aggie Defensive Player of the Year at the Aggies ESPY’s

Maleia Bracone had not hit a three-pointer all night on March 24 against Old Dominion. For about 40 minutes, the A&T women’s basketball player had a solid game. She led the Lady Aggies in scoring and had seven steals. But she saved her best for last.

With less than one second remaining, standing in the deep corner by the Lady Aggie bench, shefound the ball in her hands. The score was tied. Bracone knew her shot had the opportunity to advance the Lady Aggies to Elite Eight of the WNIT, a deeper run into the postseason than any women’s basketball team in A&T history.

It was a shot Bracone had practiced thousands of times growing up in Anderson, South Carolina.

Bracone attended T.L. Hanna High School, where she received All-State honors three times and All-Region honors four times. 

In her junior year of high school, she averaged 19 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and 4.5 steals. Bracone improves on those numbers as a senior. She finished as the all-time scoring leader in Hanna history with 1,949 points. She also garnered 5A Region 1 and 5A state player of the year honors.

Unfortunately, Bracone and Hanna high school were not able to make it to the championship game. However, other positive things happened during her senior year. She was voted class president and excelled in the classroom.  

Bracone decided to stay in her hometown for college. She accepted a scholarship offer to Presbyterian College and had a brilliant start to her college basketball career. She led the team in assists and steals, and during the season she earned the Big South freshman of the week.  

In April 2022, Bracone transferred to North Carolina A&T because it was a better fit for her academic and basketball career. 

“I fit in here; it feels like home,” Bracone said. 

Bracone made an instant impact with the Lady Aggies, she led the team in scoring, assists and steals during the 2022-23 season. Bracone earned third-team All-CAA honors and made the CAA all-defensive team. 

Bracone scored in double figures 23 times during her junior season. She ranked second in the CAA in steals, and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage. 

During her senior season Bracone led the team in steals and was second in points, assists, and blocked shots. She earned CAA all-defensive team for the second year in a row.

“I’ve excelled defensively… just being in the passing lanes, getting steals and rebounds,” Bracone said.  “I know if it’s not going well for us offensively, we have to turn up our defense for us to get good transition points and score quicker.”  

Bracone also talked about her ability to attack the basket and three-point shot. 

“Attacking the basket is something I have been doing since high school,” Bracone said. “Elevating my game for my three-point shot instead of driving to the basket is something I’m trying to get more into.” 

Attacking the basket is one of many things Bracone does well. She gets most of her points from the paint. However, opposing teams fear when Bracone has the ball outside the arc.

But on this late March night, Bracone had yet to find the net from behind the three-point line. She had missed all four of her previous attempts. But with only 0.9 seconds on the clock, she had no time to think. She released the ball just as she had thousands of times as a young girl in South Carolina, all the way through to her two years at A&T. 

Bracone’s shot was true. Nothing but net. Her teammates mobbed her at midcourt as the Aggies advanced to the third round of the WNIT.

“It was kind of nerve-racking knowing I wasn’t playing my best in that game, and I know this is the final shot,” Bracone said. “Either I make it, or we continue to play another five minutes.

“In my head, I just wanted to make it, so I was focusing on the mechanics.” 

Lady Aggies Head Coach Tarrell Robinson had high praise for Bracone. 

“[Maleia is] Just a straight dog,” Robinson said. “She competes at a high level. She doesn’t allow the offense to dictate what goes on the defense. 

“She brings it defensively every game.” 

Bracone left it all on the court this season as if her college career was ending. But on April 4, Bracone announced that she will be returning to Aggieland for an extra season of eligibility due to COVID.

Bracone said, “ONE MORE.” 

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