The Michigan State Spartans women’s basketball team was dealt a tough blow in the past few weeks, as the team lost two key veterans to season-ending injuries during non-contact activities in team practice. Senior Tory Ozment and junior Julia Ayrault were both injured in practices earlier this month and will miss the 2021-2022 season.
Ozment suffered an ACL injury and Ayrault tore a ligament in her foot. Coach Suzy Merchant confirmed to the Lansing State Journal that both players’ injuries occurred during routine non-contact activities during practices.
The two players combined for 28 starts last season — 15 for Ayrault and 13 for Ozment — during the 2020-2021 campaign. Ayrault was the third-leading scorer for the Spartans, averaging 9.0 points per game and playing in 19 total games, while Ozment averaged 6.9 points per game and 3.4 rebounds in 21 total games. Both represent big losses for MSU’s depth this season.
Meanwhile, senior point guard Nia Clouden continues to roll in the preseason honors.
Give it up for @NiaClouden!— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_WBasketball) October 28, 2021
https://t.co/pGlOO7vyiT#GoGreen | #WCP@Hoophall | @NCAAWBB | @NancyLieberman | @B1Gwbball pic.twitter.com/exeddN4jgm
On Thursday morning, Clouden was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA Preseason Watch List for the Nancy Lieberman Award. The award enters its 23rd season this year and recognizes the top point guard in NCAA Division I women’s college basketball.
Clouden is one of six Big Ten players to be named to the watch list of out 21 total candidates. The award is given to the candidate who best demonstrates “the floor leadership, playmaking, and ball-handling skills of Class of 1996 Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman.”
The list fluctuates all season based on rolling results as games are played. The current full preseason list is below (Big Ten players in bold):
2022 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award Candidates
- Jordan Lewis, Baylor
- Dyaisha Fair, Buffalo
- Ali Patberg, Indiana
- Caitlin Clark, Iowa
- Jazmine Massengill, Kentucky
- Hailey Van Lith, Louisville
- Ashley Owusu, Maryland
- Amy Dilk, Michigan
- Nia Clouden, Michigan State
- Myah Taylor, Mississippi State
- Anastasia Hayes, Mississippi State
- Raina Perez, NC State
- Diamond Johnson, NC State
- Veronica Burton, Northwestern
- Te-Hina Pao Pao, Oregon
- Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall
- Destanni Henderson, South Carolina
- Lauren Heard, TCU
- Gina Conti, UCLA
- Paige Bueckers, UConn
- Dru Gylten, Utah
- Katia Gallegos, UTEP