Suzy Merchant has been a staple of Michigan State women’s basketball since she joined the staff in 2007. She has won more than 300 games at MSU along with appearing in the NCAA Tournament over ten times, as well as helping send multiple players to the WNBA.
Nia Clouden, who was drafted to the Connecticut Sun just last year, said that she is happy Merchant got to do everything she set out for as a Division I basketball coach.
“I love Suzy to death,” Clouden said. “And she was a great coach for my four years and so I'm just happy that she got to do everything that she wanted to. She didn't come from a place where things were handed to her. She had to do a lot of work to get to where she's at. And to do things she did, win Big Ten titles, put players in the WNBA, put players through college, I think that's a really great accomplishment to go out on.”
Clouden finished her career as the second all-time leader in points scored in MSU history at 1,882 points. Last season with the Sun, she played in 28 regular season games, finishing her season with a total of 58 points, 23 rebounds, 21 assists, six steals and one block.
After suffering an injury overseas, Merchant offered Clouden a chance to come to rehab at MSU. While she started rehab, eventually Merchant convinced her to join her team as a graduate assistant and finish her master's degree at Michigan State. Clouden said education is very important to Merchant and that her time back at MSU was well spent because of that reason.
Tori Jankoska, who was picked to the WNBA in 2017 and became the first ever 2,000-point scorer in program history, said that she was just as good of a person off the court as she was off of it.
“She kept it light,” Jankoska said. “She was easy to talk to off the court as well as on the court, just asking questions and being a guiding light and that way, you can go and step into her office and have normal conversations with her. Just keeping it light and having fun while also getting your work done on the court. That's kind of the way she ran her program. And as far as X's and O's go and game planning, she was one of the best in the country. So just having her have that knowledge and then us being able to do it for her on the court.”
Two years after Jankoksa was drafted, she decided to follow in Merchant's footsteps and join the coaching staff at Virginia where she is now an assistant coach for the Cavaliers.
If you ask anyone that has interacted with Merchant for a good story about her, most likely every person asked will have a great answer. Clouden is no different, as she spent four years under Merchant’s wing.
“It's kind of my favorite memory but at the moment, it wasn't my favorite,” Clouden said. “When I was a freshman, everybody felt like Suzy had some kind of favoritism towards me. And so, there was this one practice, and I was very bad at defense my freshman year. So, there was this one practice where I messed up this defensive play, me and my teammate Coco. She stopped the whole thing and continued to scream at me for about like three minutes straight. I had no clue what was going on. And so afterward, she pulls me to the side and she's just like, 'you know, I'm just trying to teach you something, you know, blah, blah, blah.' ... So, I really liked that about her that she wasn't afraid to coach, but she was also caring at the same time.”
While Clouden and Jankoksa were not the only ones who reached professional status, thanks to the help of Merchant, their stories paint a clear picture of just how vital Merchant was to their success.
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