From injury to potential, Ithaca native Kayla Belles trying build off last year’s end

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From injury to potential, Ithaca native Kayla Belles trying build off last year’s end

Kayla Belles/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Kayla Belles/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Kayla Belles/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Kayla Belles/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Charlotte Steinberg, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

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Kayla Belles is a sophomore from local Ithaca, Michigan. Two years ago, she was recovering from an ACL tear she suffered just before her senior year season as a women’s basketball player.

Now, she will have big shoes to fill. The sophomore forward will step into the center position vacated by the graduation of former Spartan Jenna Allen and try to guide her No. 17-ranked Spartans to a successful season in a top heavy Big Ten. 

Allen, who was the Spartans leading scorer during the team’s 13-1 start last season, was a major contributor at the five spot. 

Allen’s Teammates and coaches always loved to rave about her due to her leadership and playing style. Belles looked up to her as a mentor and now is looking to become the same leader Allen was for the Spartans. 

But just before her senior year at Ithaca started, Belles tore her ACL. 

A grueling process and a scary injury to come back from.

“The doctor asked me if I heard anything,” said Belles. “Aside from my crying? When I fell, it went through my mind that I would never play ball again.” said Belles in an interview during her high school basketball days. 

Kayla did not play her senior season for Ithaca but still had to decide where she wanted to play in college. 

The choices were between Michigan, Central Michigan, Brigham Young and MSU.

In her freshman year, Belles had the opportunity to learn as she took a good chunk of the season to begin seeing consistent time.  The second-round loss in the NCAA tournament to Notre Dame last year was the first time people began to see what Belles could be, she scored 10 points in 14 minutes of play. 

After last year’s crushing loss to Notre Dame in the Round of 32, Belles looked to her future. “I think it really puts that image in my mind of what I want the next three years to be for me and where I want to help lead my team,This summer (I can) hopefully grow and be able to lead next year, my junior and senior year to maybe (help us) get even further than this.”

When she walked off the floor that night, she knew it was the last time she would play with Allen who taught her so much on and off the court. 

Now as she walks back onto the court again for the first real-game action since that March evening against the Fighting Irish, Belles will be at the center of attention in the paint.

She will have a more prominent role this year due to the small number of players in the frontcourt. Alongside Tory Ozment, Victoria Gaines, Cydni Dodd, Taiyier Parks, Mardrekia Cook and Nia Hollie, the Spartans group makes up a deeper frontcourt than last year even with the loss of Allen and Sidney Cooks.

Catch Kayla Belles and the rest of the Spartans Nov. 5, at the Breslin Center at 7 p.m as they take on Eastern Michigan for their first official regular season game.

You can follow Charlotte Steinberg on twitter @SportsTalkByCS