New additions give Michigan State women’s basketball ‘good mix’ as practice begins

EAST LANSING − Julia Ayrault was relegated to spectator duties all of last season due to a left foot injury suffered during preseason practices.

The redshirt junior guard is now thrilled to be back in action for the Michigan State women's basketball team.

And Ayrault's return to the court has come with a number of new additions around her in the Spartan program.

As MSU officially began practice Wednesday, it did so with seven new faces. The Spartans added three transfers to their roster in Gabby Elliott (Clemson), Kamaria McDaniel (Penn State/Baylor) and Stephanie Visscher (Stephen F. Austin). The other new additions are freshmen Theryn Hallock and Abbey Kimball and walk-ons Olivia Porter and Maddy Skorupski.

"A lot of new faces, a lot of new pieces," Ayrault said. "It feels like a different energy. It feels like people are just down for whatever. We're going to ride for each other just like last year. Even though we had all these injuries and we had a lot of stuff that happened, people were still there for each other and we did what we had to do. I think it's a similar vibe this year. Obviously we're going to hit some adversity at some point and I know they've got my back and I've got theirs.

"We've all got along pretty well. I'm excited to see what everybody accomplishes."

Michigan State's head coach Suzy Merchant talks with players during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Michigan State's head coach Suzy Merchant talks with players during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Those newcomers will help the Spartans move forward after losing All-American guard Nia Clouden, who ended her career as the program's second-leading scorer and was taken in the first round of this year's WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun.

While Clouden is a significant loss, MSU coach Suzy Merchant likes the squad she has assembled as the Spartans aim to bounce back from an injury-plagued season in which they finished 15-15. She said players are in good shape and have displayed a high IQ during summer access.

"We're athletic, we've got motors and we have depth," Merchant said. "I think we have a little bit of everything from the ability to shoot the ball, but we also have kids that can put the ball on the floor. It's a really good mix. Our three transfers are going to be impact players. They've got experience and they are really great kids and great leaders and hard workers. Our returning kids are completely in, healthy and ready to go."

Michigan State's Theryn Hallock, left, and Taiyier Parks go after the ball during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Michigan State's Theryn Hallock, left, and Taiyier Parks go after the ball during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

The return from injuries by Ayrault, Tory Ozment (ACL) and Moira Joiner (concussion) add to the improved depth this season for the Spartans. And with that, MSU expects to be able to come at opponents in a variety of ways.

"We have a lot of people who are so talented," Ayrault said. "It's cool for me to just come and be in practice and watch somebody do something.

"It's just exciting to watch. I know we're going to do great things. It will be awesome. I think we're going to have a great year."

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Michigan State women's basketball opens practice with new look