The Connecticut Sun knew guard Nia Clouden had a refined offensive game when they selected her 12th overall in the WNBA draft last month.
For the Sun, it is nice to now see it up close as the Michigan State product sure hasn’t disappointed her new team by showcasing an adept offensive skill set during the lead-up to her first professional season.
“Nia has really impressed us offensively as advertised,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said at the team’s media day Wednesday. “In our closed scrimmage she went in in the second quarter and in her first two minutes of playing against another WNBA team had seven points in two minutes. The second part of the first quarter in our exhibition game, and then beginning two minutes of the second quarter against Atlanta, she scored eight points. That’s 15 points between two games against WNBA competition in a very short window. She can really score the basketball.”
The 5-foot-9 Clouden scored in bunches during her four-year career in East Lansing. Clouden finished as the second leading scorer in program history after averaging 20 points per game in her final season with the Spartans this winter.
Clouden torched opposing defenses in college by scoring in a multitude of ways, like when she dropped a program record 50 points on 17-for-28 shooting against Florida Gulf Coast this past December.
So far, Clouden’s offensive talent that made her a first-round pick has translated to the WNBA, and being a high-volume scorer has definitely caught the eyes of Clouden’s teammates.
“Nia, same dynamic scorer,” Sun veteran guard Jasmine Thomas said. “She’s a rookie, you know that adjustment coming in as a rookie and finding out how to assert yourself, when to assert yourself, the physicality of camp at times — you can see her adjusting to that. She is a great, great player. She was smaller than I thought she would be, but she really still has a lot of different ways that she can put the ball in the basket.”
Clouden’s small frame could pose problems when she’s on the floor, especially on the defensive end as opposing teams will look to hunt matchups and single her out in isolation situations.
But any defensive liability that might be there, Clouden can make up for it on the offensive end. A skilled shooter, Clouden shot 39.6% from 3-point range this past season at Michigan State, and that alone should benefit a Connecticut squad that needs to space the floor around its frontcourt stars.
As Clouden continues to transition to professional basketball, her polished offensive game will carry her early on and give her the opportunity to make an impact for the Sun.
“I think she has a WNBA skillset where she can make threes, she’s got wiggle to get herself to the rim or to the mid-range,” Miller said. “She can score at all three levels. The physicality will be her adjustment. She is a small combo guard. She will be obviously initiated to this league with some of the physicality and some of the bullying that goes on to rookies. She will not be spared that. But I’m really confident that she’s a really talented offensive player that has a bright future.”
The Sun kick off its season Saturday against the New York Liberty. Connecticut then returns to action May 14 against the Los Angeles Sparks, a game you can watch on NESN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET.