After getting out to Connecticut, Clouden was immediately fighting for a roster spot as fellow rookies from around the league were getting cut within days after the draft. Right when she walked in the door, the 5’8” guard asked Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller what she needed to do to make it in the league.
“I just needed to know my expectations, because obviously it's a cutthroat league and people were gonna get cut, especially on a team like this where we have a lot of veterans and experienced players,” Clouden said. “So my mindset was just to play hard.”
Despite ups and downs in camps, Clouden made the roster and has carved out a nice role for herself on the second-place Sun, playing in 15 of the Sun’s 23 games and averaging about eight minutes a contest.
The Sun throughout the entire draft process was upfront with Clouden. They loved her game, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Her shot, ability to create for herself and others, play on or off-ball and score from multiple levels was what made her a first-round selection. Despite going from a star in college to a rookie player in the WNBA, what she is asked to do on the court isn’t any different.
“He (Curt) really wanted me to be aggressive and he wanted me to look for my shot because that's the reason why they drafted me here — from my ability to score,” Clouden said. “Just focusing on getting into my shots when I can and when they're there and not forcing them.”
That can look a bit different for Clouden in the WNBA than it did at Michigan State. Even in college, Clouden was a smaller guard. Now in the WNBA, the size difference gets even bigger. At MSU, Clouden was great at drawing contact and getting to the line. But now, those calls don’t come as often and the hits hurt that much harder.
“In college, the games are caught a lot tighter, more touchy, you can get a foul for about anything, but here, it's a lot different,” Clouden said. “The women are way bigger and faster, stronger. Just the amount of physicality you can get away with here was an adjustment for me being one of the smallest players.”
But the love of the game has always been there for Clouden. No matter the moment at Michigan State, Clouden was always there to step up whether it was against rival Michigan or in the postseason, the moment never seemed too big. Playing on the hoop of the back of her bedroom door as a kid, Clouden always envisioned herself here on this stage playing against the likes of Sue Bird and Candace Parker. But when her dream finally came true, it left her in awe.
“I'm not gonna lie, Candice Parker was the only one I was like starstruck during the game,” Clouden said. “I obviously didn’t let it show, but I was starstruck for her. It's just really good to be out there competing against people I've been watching for a long time and just knowing that I'm here at this level, and truly just playing basketball, having fun.”
What makes it even sweeter for Clouden is being slightly closer to home now as well. Her family has been able to come to more games than they previously could with the drive cut by about two hours. With that comes a set of adjustments, leaving Clouden missing warmer days and maybe a little bit more alone time that she used to have in East Lansing.
“I kind of got used to being away and having a little more privacy, but it's just really been a blessing to have them here,” Clouden said.
One adjustment she didn’t have to make was learning a whole new offense and defense. Clouden credits Michigan State and Head Coach Suzy Merchant for getting her ready now for the WNBA and making the transition much smoother and likely helped her keep that roster spot.
“In the WNBA, everything is a lot more fast-paced and there isn't much teaching of the fundamentals,” Clouden said. “I was able to learn all of that stuff, defense and offensive concepts at Michigan State that I was able to carry here with me. Because here's you're thrown in and you're expected to know how to do things. You just have to learn the offense and defensive principles and stuff like that. Michigan State really helped me out a lot.”
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