Nov. 8, 2017
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant announced the signing of three National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, including Nia Clouden (Owing Mills, Maryland/St. Frances), Tory Ozment (Buford, Georgia/Buford) and Kayla Belles (Ithaca, Michigan/Ithaca).
"First and foremost these three players come from programs that win. They all have that championship mentality. You always look for kids that play for storied programs because they really understand what it takes to win at such a high level and be the best," Merchant added.
Clouden is a 5-8 point guard who plays for head coach Jerome Shelton at St. Frances Academy. She is currently ranked No. 43 overall and No. 13 at her position by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last March, Clouden was named Maryland Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, becoming the third Baltimore-area player to win the award in 11 years. She was also the USA Today Maryland Player of the Year last season. She is a two-time captain, who averaged 14.2 points and 4.7 assists per game as a junior. Last season, the Panthers captured their second-straight IAAM Championship. St. Frances also advanced to the semifinals of the Dick's Sporting Goods High School Nationals, falling in overtime. Clouden has also earned first-team Baltimore Sun honor in both 2016 and 2017.
She is the daughter of Tarra Nelson-Clouden and Karim Clouden.
"We are elated to have Nia be a part of the Michigan State family. She brings a winning history and tradition from one of the best high schools in the country. She is a tremendous downhill attacking point guard that has a very high IQ for the game. She has the ability to be a scorer and be a facilitator at the same time," Merchant said.
Ozment is a 6-1 guard/forward who plays for head coach Gene Durden at Buford High School. Durden has captured five state championships during time at Buford. She is currently ranked No. 14 at her position by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last season, Ozment was named the AAAAA State Player of the Year as well as being named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Associations All-State squad. Ozment earned Atlanta Tipoff Club and Atlanta Journal Constitution All-Metro team. Last season, she averaged 13.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, leading Buford on a run to the Class AAAAA State Championship. As a sophomore, she guided Buford to the AAAA Final Four, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 assists per game.
She is the daughter of Sandra and Jeff Ozment, who both played at basketball at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. Her father is also an assistant basketball coach at Buford.
"Tory comes from a great basketball family. She is extremely versatile and can play numerous positions for us. We have had a lot of success with kids who can play multiple positions. We are thrilled about the history and tradition that she brings coming from the high school program at Buford which is coached by a legendary high school coach in Gene Durden," Merchant said.
Belles is a 6-3 forward who plays for head coach Ty Warczinksy at Ithaca High School. As a junior, Belles averaged 19.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocked shots and 2.6 steals per game, earning Associated Press Class B all-state honors. She led the Yellowjackets to three-straight Tri-Valley Conference West Division titles, which included a run to the Class C Final Four during her sophomore campaign. She garnered first-team all-state honors three-straight seasons, averaging a double-double the last two seasons. She is a multi-sport athlete, who earned all-state honors in both basketball and volleyball. Belles will miss her senior year of high school after tearing her ACL over the summer.
She is the daughter of Shannon and Douglas Belles.
"Kayla will bring depth and athleticism to our post position. She is extremely mobile for her size and will be a force defensively in the paint. She has a strong face-up game, as well as a solid power game. So again, her versatility will allow her to play multiple positions for us, which we really like in our system," Merchant said.
The current Spartans will open the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 11 against Robert Morris at 4 p.m.