Laura Malernee Ciamacco grew up as an athlete in central Ohio, so it’s no wonder she has many connections to Ohio State University even though she never played for the Buckeyes.
Malernee is married to Joe Ciamacco, a former outfielder for the Ohio State baseball team. Her father, Paul, has served as a redcoat for OSU athletic events for the past five years.
And even though Laura played basketball at West Liberty University, her biography listed “Ohio State” as her favorite sports team.
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So if her NCAA women's all-divisions record for career three-point baskets, now in its seventh season of survival, were to fall to anyone, well, it’s fitting that it would be an Ohio State player to surpass her.
With one more three-pointer, OSU senior Kelsey Mitchell will eclipse Malernee’s career total of 441, which she set from 2008-11 at West Liberty, a Division II school near Wheeling, West Virginia.
“It’s amazing just knowing that it’s a national record. It’s really cool — well, not anymore,” Malernee said with a laugh. “It’s really cool for us both to be from Columbus and have it.”
Malernee, a 5-foot-11 guard who played at Gahanna Lincoln High School, blossomed as a long-range shooter over her final three seasons at West Liberty, averaging 133 made three-pointers in her last three seasons.
Mitchell, a 5-8 guard who played in high school at Cincinnati Princeton, has taken a steadier path to the record. She finished her first three All-America seasons at Ohio State with between 115 and 127 three-pointers made and is on pace for a similar number this year.
Earlier this season, Mitchell passed Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Connecticut for the Division I record of 398 made three-pointers.
Mitchell smiled Monday when informed Malernee is from central Ohio.
“I actually didn’t know that,” she said.
A deep, contested Mitchell three-pointer with 1:01 to play in Tuesday’s 84-75 loss to Michigan pulled her even with Malernee at 441. Mitchell likely will break the record in the Buckeyes’ next game, on Monday at Maryland; she has made at least one three-pointer in 76 consecutive games, four short of the Division I mark.
The lead-up to the handoff provides Malernee an opportunity to reflect on a basketball career that has been on hiatus — even from intramurals — since the birth of her now 2-year-old daughter, Berklee, to whom she devotes her time.
Malernee leaned Division II out of Gahanna, even though she had nibbles from Division I schools such as Kent State and Brown.
She looked at Findlay, Gannon, Wheeling Jesuit and Ashland before finding her fit at West Liberty, where longtime coach Lynn Ullom, now the school’s athletic director, attacked teams with an arsenal of 25 to 30 plays designed specifically to free a three-point shooter.
It was Malernee’s kind of place, and she found hers as a starter during her sophomore year.
“I just went nuts,” she said of a 2008-09 season in which she made 146 threes at a 40.7 percent clip. She also drove her opponents nuts.
“The plays that they had were just phenomenal,” Malernee said. “I would just whip around, and everyone knew me for my quick release, and that was the big thing for people to guard me because they had to get around screens.”
Word soon got out about the sharpshooter. Opponents blanketed her with extra defenders and perimeter defense over her final two seasons. She made 134 and 121 threes in those seasons, respectively, but at a percentage that dipped to 35.2 percent as a junior and 30.9 percent as a senior.
A friend who played for Wheeling Jesuit later showed Malernee a scouting report bearing her name. It read, in all capital letters: “DON’T LET HER SHOOT.”
“I did attempt a lot more and miss a lot more,” Malernee said of her junior and senior seasons. “It was strictly threes, and all the plays were run for threes, but that was my kind of play, for sure.”
Mitchell and Malernee play different games — about half of Mitchell’s baskets have been two-point field goals, while a staggering 91.1 percent of Malernee’s 484 college baskets were three-pointers.
Both players, however, understand the ebbs and flows of basketball just the same.
Malernee went through the occasional shooting slump as the record loomed, and Mitchell, twice named the Big Ten player of the year, better deals with facing the opponent’s best defender on some nights than others.
Mitchell said she’s proud of how her shooting mentality has matured as her Ohio State career nears its end.
“You miss your first five or six shots and you’re like, ‘I don’t want to shoot anymore. I’m annoyed,’” Mitchell said. “That was the immature me my freshman, sophomore and junior year. (Now) it’s almost like whatever happens, happens.”
The key to being a successful volume shooter is turning the page from play to play. In that regard, Mitchell said she draws inspiration from NBA players such as Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook and from her family.
“My brother, Cameron Mitchell, he is a shooter that says, ‘Shooters shoot,’” Mitchell said. “That’s my mentality. If I miss 10, that 11th one is going to fall. That’s what I try to believe in.”
Until another of Mitchell’s long-range shots inevitably falls, two prolific Ohio shooters remain intersected at a point of college basketball history.