St. Frances defeats McDonogh to win the IAAM A Conference high school girls basketball campionship. (Katherine Dunn, Baltimore Sun video)

Nia Clouden, St. Frances' two-time All-Metro point guard, has committed to play basketball for Michigan State.

Although Clouden has a lot of family in Lansing, Mich., and comes from a "Spartan family," according to her mother Tarra Clouden, she considered many of the nearly 30 offers she received.

Through an exhaustive process, she whittled her list to five finalists: Michigan State, West Virginia, DePaul, South Florida and Rutgers.

After taking her official visit to Michigan State last weekend, she knew East Lansing was the place for her. She committed Sunday after she returned home.

"I just have a lot of family there and I met with coach [Suzy] Merchant and coach Mox (assistant Amaka Agugua). They were nice people and they were really down to earth and honest with me," Clouden said. "When I went up there, the girls were really nice and funny people and the team is usually ranked in the top 25."

The Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year, Clouden is rated the No. 44 player in the Class of 2018 and the No. 12 point guard in the nation in ESPN's HoopGurlz recruiting rankings.

A dynamic floor leader with the ability to be a big scorer, she averaged 12.8 points and four assists this winter for the No. 1 Panthers, who won their second straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship and the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational Tournament championship.

They finished the season ranked No. 17 in USA Today's Super 25 and played in the Dick's Nationals, where they suffered their only loss in a 31-game season. Clouden scored her 1,000th career point in the A Conference final.

Clouden picked up offers from Georgia Tech and Florida after being named the Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year, but she stuck to her top five.

Even with family close to Michigan State's East Lansing location, Clouden and her parents did exhaustive research on the recruiting process before settling on the right program for her. While college programs evaluated her, she evaluated them.

They put up big bulletin boards in the house with pros and cons. They studied transfer rates to see which schools kept their players and rosters to see where she had a realistic chance to play soon. Panthers coach Jerome Shelton provided her with questions to ask each college coach and helped throughout the process.

"At first, I was really reluctant to do it," Clouden said of the extensive homework, "but my parents wouldn't leave me alone about it. At first, I did it so they would leave me alone, but it was very beneficial."

She said she believes finding the right fit at the right program will help get her ready for her dream of playing professional basketball, a goal of hers since soon after she started playing the game at around age 9.

Merchant "says she wants me to be a scoring point guard for her and she says I'll have some freedom to make some decisions out there," said Clouden of a role similar to the one she has at St. Frances.

The Spartans, who play in the Big Ten, were 21-12 last year and reached the NCAA tournament.

Now that her commitment is made, she will focus on her Amateur Athletic Union season with the Maryland Lady Tigers.

"It was hard because I liked every school that recruited me. ... It was kind of stressful. Now, I feel good. I don't have to worry about going through this any more," said Clouden, who has a 3.5 GPA and plans to become a dentist.

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