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Checking in on how the Mystics are doing abroad

Eight players are playing or have played in various overseas leagues this season. We take a look at their performances here.

tayler hill 2016 Stewart W. Small

NBA players use the summer to develop their games. WNBA players are in a paradox of sorts. The WNBA itself is the best professional women’s league in the world, but they only play during the summer. During the winter and fall, most players go to Europe, Asia, or Australia to play where they work to expand their skill sets.

Earlier, we talked about the challenges of evaluating international talent. So now, let’s check up on how the players are doing as we head into 2017.

Emma Meesseman

Where: UMMC Ekaterinburg, Yekaterinburg, Russia

League: Russian Super League

Continental: EuroLeague

Stats in Russian League: 7 games - 9.9 ppg (50 percent shooting), 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg

Stats in EuroLeague: 6 games - 10.7 ppg (58.3 percent shooting), 4.3 rpg, 2.2 apg. 2.0 spg, 0.5 bpg

What should Meesseman’s goal overseas be? Win the Russian Super League title, win the EuroLeague Women title. She should also look like the “heir apparent” to franchise player Diana Taurasi enters the twilight of her career.

Is her role in Russia bigger than the US? No because this franchise is Diana Taurasi’s until she leaves or she says that she’ll “hand the reins.” That said, Taurais reported to Yekaterinburg late, which gave Meesseman more opportunities to shine.

The good news is that she has emerged to be one of their best players along with Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner or Spanish star Alba Torrens with Taurasi out of the picture early. But the bad news is that she is essentially the same player for UMMC as she has been on the Mystics. She does a lot of things well and is very efficient on both ends of the floor, especially on defense. But she ultimately hasn’t been a clear Robin to Taurasi’s Batman right now.

It also leads to Lyndie’s concern last winter when Meesseman was transferred. Is UMMC the best team for her development, when her biggest weakness is her ability to be a bonafide leader for any team that she’s on?

Kahleah Copper

Where: Castors Braine, Braine-l’Alleud, Walloon Brabant, Belgium

League: Belgian First League

Continental: EuroCup

Stats in Belgium: 8 games - 17.9 ppg (45 percent shooting), 5.3 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.9 spg

Stats in EuroCup: 6 games - 15 ppg (54.9 percent shooting), 6.5 rpg

What should Copper’s goal overseas be? Be a more active shooter, and a more accurate one from three.

IS her role bigger in Belgium than the US? Yes. She is starting for Castors Braine and is taking more shots than anyone else on the team. Along with veteran American center Celeste Trahan-Davis (who played for Division II Elizabeth City), they are the two leading scorers on the team.

Kia Vaughn

Where: USK Praha, Prague, Czech Republic

League: ZBL (Czech Republic)

Continental: EuroLeague

Stats in Czech Republic: 7 games - 13.0 ppg (70.9 percent shooting), 5.1 rpg, 1.1 spg

Stats in EuroLeague: 6 games - 10.8 ppg (50.9 percent shooting), 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg

What should Vaughn’s goal overseas be? Win the ZBL and EuroLeague. USK won EuroLeague in 2015 with Vaughn as their MVP.

IS her role bigger in the Czech Republic than the US? Yes. She is starting for one of Europe’s most powerful teams and is a consistent contributor for them. In Washington she was Stefanie Dolson’s backup, though she still played starter level minutes.

The Mystics have generally leaned toward youth over the last four years, so Vaughn becomes an intriguing trade chip this offseason assuming that they aren’t willing to let Dolson go in a major trade.

LaToya Sanders

Where: Abdullah Gul University Kayseri, Kayseri, Anatolia, Turkey

League, KBSL

Continental: EuroCup

Stats in Turkey: 15.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Stats in EuroCup: 6 games - 11 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3 apg

What should Sanders’ goal overseas be? Finish EuroCup strong and win the KBSL.

Is her role bigger in Turkey than the US? Yes. Sanders was the leading scorer for the Turkish national team in the Olympics last summer and remains that way with her team during the NBA season. Abdullah Gul Kayseri is currently third in the KBSL and still has a solid chance of winning the league.

Stefanie Dolson

Where: Sichuan Whale, China

League: WCBA

Stats in WCBA: 23.6 ppg, 14.7 rpg

Note: Dolson left Sichuan in November. In the meantime, we’ll evaluate what she has done already.

What should Dolson’s goal overseas be? Recapture her 2015 season form.

IS her role bigger in the China than the US? Yes, it was.

Did she help Sichuan win a lot of games? No. Sichuan is one of the worst teams in the league. To be fair, Tina Charles, her replacement, hasn’t changed the team’s fortunes either.

So was China a good experience for her? I’ll say it was. The Chinese league has been quite friendly to American WNBA players where the stars throw up video game stats. After all, the plan is throw the ball to the American and see what she’ll do. It literally is, probably to the chagrin of Emma Meesseman.

Sure, Dolson won’t be averaging these types of stats in America, but sometimes, you need a spell of games like that to boost your confidence, and Dolson had just that. Also, the Chinese league is home to a number of WNBA stars including Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, so it’s not like it is a league devoid of talent.

The next question for Dolson is this: will she play somewhere else during the NBA season?

Tayler Hill

Where: Bnot Hertzeliya, Herzliya, Israel

League: Israeli League

Stats in Israel: 23.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.3 spg - Hill is shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 47.7 percent from three.

What should Hill’s goal overseas be? Assert herself as a primary perimeter scorer on whatever team she’s on.

IS her role bigger in Israel than the US? Yes. As a matter of fact, she’s having the best season overseas for these reasons:

  • She’s leading in scoring and assists. She’s also very efficient overall AND from three (21-44 for 47.7 percent)

Is Hill the Mystics’ go-to player going forward?: Hill’s overseas production and efficiency pops the question: Is she the Mystics’ go-to player long term instead of Meesseman? I don’t think most will believe that Hill is better than Meesseman, but consider this:

  • Hill is American. Americans have generally been loyal to the WNBA in the summer. Meesseman is European. Europeans’ loyalty to the WNBA has been flaky due to EuroBasket (which Meesseman’s Belgian team made) and other playing style differences between American and European leagues.
  • Hill improved significantly in her areas of weakness last summer: shooting efficiency despite being a high volume shooter. If this holds up next summer, it looks like this could be “Hill’s team” before you know it. Meesseman doesn’t have efficiency weaknesses, but she doesn’t have the mentality of a franchise player. UMMC isn’t the place for her to develop that right away given who their “top dog” is.

Natasha Cloud

Where: Townsville Fire, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

League: WNBL, Australia

Stats in WNBL: 6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg. 4.2 rpg in 15 games

What should Cloud’s goal overseas be? Be a more efficient and assertive scorer.

Is her role bigger in the WNBL than the US? Cloud’s role is about the same as it was for the Mystic last season. She is the 7th leading assister in the WNBL. Unfortunately, her shooting percentage is also not good where she is shooting just 36 percent from the field.

Townsville is also 8-7 this season after winning two straight WNBL titles and four straight finals appearances. I’m not exactly sure which players left over the last season, but maybe there are some growing pains this season.

Ally Malott

Where: Dandenong Rangers, Dandenong, Victoria, Australia

League: WNBL, Australia

Stats in WNBL: 10.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 apg (50 percent shooting from the field, 38 percent from three)

What should Malott’s goal overseas be? Show that she can play meaningful minutes at the professional level.

Is her role bigger in the WNBL than the US? Malott was the 11th, and later the 12th man on the Mystics’ roster after Jamie Weisner was waived last season. She played sparingly in each of her two seasons, which puts her WNBA career on thin ice. If you can’t play many minutes on one of the WNBA’s youngest teams with a coach who doesn’t hesitate to play his young players, that’s not good.

The good news is that Malott is averaging well over 20 minutes a game for the WNBL-leading Dandenong Rangers and is a consistent contributor for them. If she stays in this form next spring, she should have more than just a fair shot at making the 2017 roster.

Leilani Mitchell

Where: Sydney Flames, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

League: WNBL, Australia

Stats in WNBL: 15.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg. 6.4 rpg (39 percent shooting from the field and from three)

What should Mitchell’s goal overseas be? Play at a level where she can be an effective first guard off the bench, or be a starting guard for the 2017 season.

Is her role bigger in the WNBL than the US? Yes. Mitchell was the starting point guard for the Australian national team so it’s not a surprise she’s starting on her team in the WNBL and is one of the best players in the league overall.

Sydney’s fourth in the eight-team WNBL and won four of their last five games with Mitchell playing at a very high level. Assuming she stays in D.C. next year, Mitchell could play a role like Ivory Latta did in her first three years in Washington.

Players who aren’t abroad

Ivory Latta and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt have not played overseas. Bria Hartley is having a baby in about a month, so she is not playing either.