Michigan State forward Kayla Belles and coach Suzy Merchant have announced via Twitter that the sophomore is transferring to Brigham Young University.
“We loved having Kayla Belles part of our program, and while disappointed she is leaving, we wish her nothing but the very best at an institution that aligns her faith and personal endeavors,” Merchant said. “She and her family are first-class people, and they will always be part of our Spartan Family.”
The Ithaca, Michigan native averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 2019-20, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. At the beginning of the season, senior Victoria Gaines started at center. However, there wasn’t anyone behind her that could be consistent.
When Gaines went down with an injury, Belles had to step up for the Spartans. She filled the need at the starting center position, though at times needed to be “tougher” according to Merchant in multiple post-game press conferences. Belles defended some of the best post players in the Big Ten. From Michigan’s Naz Hillmon to Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris, this could be a problem for the Spartans in the future.
Looking ahead to next season, the Spartans will have a big hole to fill with Belles gone. Incoming freshman Kendall Bostic could step into the starting role, but also returning sophomore Taiyier Parks could develop over the summer. One positive thing going for the Spartans is that they will be getting back Mardrekia Cook, who is coming off an ACL tear. These are all questions that need to be addressed, but there could be some options in the transfer portal.
In the Big Ten, one of the most competitive leagues in the NCAA, size could be a factor next year. With the top tier teams such as Northwestern and Maryland having experience and powerful post players, the Spartans will be undersized and perhaps not have enough experience to compete in the post.
Overall, the paint will be a weakness for Michigan State with the departure of Belles, but new faces could lessen the blow. Jayla James could provide a spark off the bench, and Bostic could be the much needed size in the starting lineup.
ESPN has only positive things to say about the Indiana native Bostic. The 6-foot-1 freshman was described in 2018 as a “blue-collar interior performer (who) finishes plays in traffic with consistent results; physical on the block, holds position, patient with footwork; mobile in uptempo game; competes, earns points at the charity stripe.” This year, ESPN updated and wrote another report and explained Bostic’s development. “Agile interior performer brings soft touch in the key, battles on the glass and finishes plays at the charity stripe; defends in half-court game, mobile in transition, earns double-double results,” the network said.
She received IBCA Supreme Fifteen All-State honors in 2020, and in 2019 received USA Today 1st-Team All-Indiana honors. Bostic could make an impact as soon as she steps into the Breslin Center and already has something Spartan faithful can cheer about.
Charlotte Steinberg is a freshman beat reporter for Impact 89FM WDBM who primarily covers women’s basketball. You can follow her on Twitter at @sportstalkbycs.