Sports Person of the Week
LeBeau Stands Tall for the Thunderbirds
Junior forward Braeden LeBeau has established herself as a top player for the North Branford girls’ basketball team during the course of her high school career. (Photo courtesy of Braeden LeBeau )
Ever since she started basketball, Braeden LeBeau has always been one of the tallest players on the court. Now standing at 6-feet tall, Braeden has risen to great heights as a member of the North Branford girls’ basketball team the past three years, becoming a focal point of the Thunderbirds’ offense and an All-Shoreline Conference honoree.
Braeden, a junior, first stepped on the basketball court by competing in North Branford’s recreational league when she was five. Braeden was encouraged to play by her father Neil and her mom Raelene, who played basketball at Harbor Field High School in New York and later at Western New England University. With Braeden playing the forward position like her mother did, she learned a great deal about basketball from her mom, while developing quite a passion for the sport.
“Both my parents really encouraged me to play. When I was younger, my mom would always give me pointers, because she was also tall and played the same position. She gave me ideas of what moves to do. We already had a connection,” Braeden says. “It was a lot more fun going to practices and games and having my dad and mom talk to me about how I played. It was a great way to communicate over the sport. It helped me enjoy the sport a lot more.”
Braeden played in North Branford’s rec league until joining the town’s travel program in 5th grade, remaining with the team through her 8th-grade season. Meanwhile, Braeden started playing for the team at North Branford Intermediate School as a 6th-grader. As a result of competing in numerous different leagues from such a young age, Braeden was able to make a pretty seamless transition to the high school level.
“Starting from a young age definitely gave me a lot more confidence. When I came to the high school and I was playing right off the bat, it was a smoother transition,” says Braeden. “I knew a lot of the girls already. I’ve been playing with them forever. We already had a bond and a connection. It was easier to jump into high school.”
When she reached high school, Braeden earned her spot as a starting forward for the T-Birds’ varsity squad as a freshman. It was a little intimidating for Braeden at first, but the older girls on the team gave her tips on how to succeed on the varsity level.
Braeden continued starting for North Branford as a sophomore last year. Braeden had a big season and wound up earning All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for her performance.
“It was really an honor considering that we didn’t have the best season,” Braeden says. “Getting that recognition really meant a lot to me, especially being able to get it as a sophomore.”
Now in her junior year, Braeden continues to produce on the offensive end of the court for North Branford. Thus far this season, Braeden is averaging 16 points per game and already has four double-doubles to her name. Braeden has seen her confidence grow during her high school career and is feeling more confident than ever this season.
“I’ve become a lot more confident. I’m able to take the ball and not pass up as many shots as I used to,” says Braeden. “When I was younger, I would get the ball and I would get flustered. I would pass it to our other post player or back out to the guard. This year, I’m a lot more comfortable and more confident in the moves I do. If I miss, I try and get my own rebound and don’t get so discouraged anymore. It lets me keep going.”
In her first season as the head coach of North Branford girls’ hoops, Sabrina LeMere is enjoying working with Braeden. LeMere says the junior forward is always willing to do whatever it takes to help the T-Birds succeed.
“Braeden has been such a good player to coach. She’s very coachable, she listens to any advice I have for her, she is always uplifting. She’s a great kid. It has been great coaching her,” says LeMere. “She is just a go-getter. She knows what she needs to do. She is tough in the paint. We want to get Braeden the ball. She gets it done.”
Aside from basketball, Braeden is also a member of North Branford’s field hockey and girls’ lacrosse teams. She started playing lacrosse in 2nd grade and has been playing field hockey since the 7th grade. Braeden feels that playing three high school sports is a big help in terms of her time management skills, in addition to improving her overall athleticism.
“Playing three sports has helped me be a better student. I’m more organized, and it has improved my time management. I know I have a game or practice, so I have to study and get my homework done. I don’t procrastinate as much as I used to,” Braeden says. “Field hockey and lacrosse are sort of similar, but it’s very different from basketball. The idea of coordination and working together translates through all three sports.”
Braeden has continually progressed as both a scorer and a rebounder during her time with the T-Birds. More than just statistics, though, playing basketball for North Branford has helped Braeden become more comfortable and make plethora of friendly connections.
“It’s really a big part of my life. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I am if I didn’t have basketball. It has made me a lot more confident with myself,” says Braeden. “When I was younger, I didn’t like being taller than everyone. Basketball gives me a way I can use that to my advantage. It makes me feel more comfortable in myself. It has allowed me to make so many friends. I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to play with such great people.”