Three reasons why Emma Meesseman's "passiveness" isn't passiveness at all

Stewart W. Small

On the cusp of her 23rd birthday, Emma Meesseman is blowing the doors off of every opportunity she has been given. L.W. brings up a great point about Meesseman joining powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg in this article. And, Albert Lee alludes to it in this informative article.

But I am here to say that Meesseman seems to be absolutely rising to the challenge Internationally. (I actually said it here regarding her play for Belgium, as well.)

Whether it was starting the season with EuroCup legends Sparta&K Vidnoje region and helping lead them to the Quarterfinals before getting transferred to - not very arguably - the best team in Europe, UMMC Ekaterinburg; to stepping WAY up to help get the Cats, her Belgian National team, into the EuroBasket 2017 and Olympic conversation. Here are her numbers for the Cats, below. This has to be the definition of gaudy stats:

Meesseman Stats Min Pts M 2 Att % M 3 Att % FTs M Ft Att % Off Reb Def Reb TOTAL Assists Steals TO Blocks Fouls
11/25/2015 vs. BEL L 71-76 35.0 31.0 11.0 18 61.0% 0 1 9.0 9.0 100% 9.0 8.0 17.0 5.0 4.0 3 3
2/20/2016 vs. POL W 100-63 37 29 13 16 81.3% 1 2 50.0% 0 0 0.0% 2 12 14 0 2 2 3 3
AVG for BEL 36 30 12 17 70.6% 0.5 1.5 33.3% 4.5 4.5 100.0% 5.5 10 15.5 2.5 3 2.5 1.5 3

Rocking 30 points and 15 rebounds per game, and 70/30/100% for Belgium, she seems to be attracting the best, as well. Former Dubber Ann Wauters suddenly deciding to join the Belgian Cats in January springs to mind.

Or the best is attracted to her. In this case, UMMC Assistant Coach Sandy Brondello [she is head coach of the Phoenix Mercury] was all smiles as Meesseman left the floor after her first shift for UMMC Eka, having pressured a Steal in 20 seconds on a broken defensive scheme, below.

Let's take a deeper look at why Meesseman has been criticized for her 'pass first' offense.

Three main contributions to Meesseman's 'Passiveness' as a Mystics player

1. European star players are more team-oriented.

To Americans, passing is "passiveness" unless you are a guard.

But in Europe, that's how they play. Pass(iveness) until someone has an excellent shot. Meesseman shoots 56 percent in the WNBA and over 60 percent overseas. Her mother would be proud.

Speaking of which, Meesseman literally has basketball in her blood. Her mother, Sonja Tankrey, was the Belgian Player of the Year in 1983.

It certainly isn't as if Meesseman hasn't been looked at as the central figure before. This excellent summary of her title run and MVP honors in 2011 give that merit. And by the way, if the Mystics' guards were shooting better than in the 30 percent range, she would be averaging quite a few more assists like Candace Parker did in 2015.

But if you are wondering what Coach Thibault saw in Meesseman well before draft day, below are her numbers on the Belgian National stage starting in 2008. She is listed as 6'2 as a 15-year-old. I have included her other club teams, as well as the Mystics:

2. Meesseman's overall production in 2015 went down because of the Mystics' increased Post depth mid-season

Last year when LaToya Sanders was overseas to start the season and Kia Vaughn had a concussion, Meesseman and her twin tower, Stefanie Dolson, saw more consistent minutes per game. With more production, both earned All-Star berths.

Before the All-Star break they were averaging 31 and 28 minutes respectively, were shooting a 54 percent from the field as well as combining for roughly 15 rebounds a contest.

After the All-Star break, when Sanders and Vaughn became available, their production dropped. The Washington Posts' minutes dropped to 24 a game for Meesseman and 22 for Dolson.

But get this. With less minutes, Meesseman's efficiency went up, as she shot 57 percent. Dolson, on the other hand, shot 45 percent. Both combined for 10 rebounds after the All-Star break.

A common theme for the Mystics throughout the end of July and into August/September was watching the starters take the floor, build a lead and get subbed out. No matter how 'hot' they were, Thibault would sit out his younger starters for the veteran bench players.

Even if there was a Mystics lead, off to the pine they went. The second team ultimately gave the lead away and the starters would return cold and out of sync, and the opponents had regrouped. With some frequency, the opponent would win the game.

All evidence suggests that veterans have an easier time with this aspect of the game than younger players. I think it's what they mean by 'been there, done that'. And speaking of which...

3. Meesseman respects veteran authority -- and that is a good thing

Meesseman has the opposite type of personality that would walk into a room and step on people's toes from everything I have read, on both sides of the pond about her.

A 19-year-old, second round draft pick from Belgium that speaks English as a third language, and has another challenge that the WaPo explains way better than I can back in 2013, is not a cocky NCAA college champion that the world has anointed when she was in high school. Meesseman even acknowledged that she never expected to make the 2013 Mystics team.

Anyone in Meesseman's situation would have been thrilled to have had the chance to work with other post veterans from Crystal Langhorne -- who Albert thinks he may have been too harsh on over the years -- to the aforementioned Vaughn.

I think she prefers to work 'with' people, anyway.

Don't close the book on Meesseman that she isn't capable of being a #1 option

There are three things that pop out to me on why Meesseman's time overseas -- and her time with UMMC -- will benefit the Mystics this summer.

  1. How refreshing to see Meesseman play a whole game while the team was blowing out an opponent? I cannot recall ANY Mystic game where that happened, as I mentioned above. Watching her get into a groove and score 29 points and grab 14 rebounds, actually just seemed normal. But that does not happen on a Mike Thibault team so far as I can see. So this bodes particularly well in the confidence category. And, she has been the go-to player on her FIBA teams since 2008. Will the Mystics give her the opportunity to succeed? Clearly her play this year is no fluke.
  1. If Coach Thibault has a similar scenario in mind for rotations this year, I do not see how it would hurt Meesseman to come off the bench for UMMC. Yes, Ivory Latta showed the whole team what an amazing baller and teammate she was when she began the season as a starter and then came off the bench in 2015 for a time, without a hitch. Veteran Leadership. Do your best for the team. Never miss an opportunity to learn, right? But more selfishly, she has enough frequent flyer miles at this point to own a share of Space X. I would have absolutely no problem with her averaging 20 minutes a game with UMMC, especially if they go deep into the SuperCup Championship playoffs, as they are expected to do.
  1. Finally, the confidence issue should be put to rest. If she does not have the validation as one of the best players in the world -- which the owner, Ted Leonsis himself acknowledged -- that would seem silly. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
There are also two 'circle the date' games in the next several weeks. In a strange twist of fate, Meesseman and Ann Wauters will meet each other in the EuroLeague Quarterfinals, playing for UMMC Eka and Galatasaray, respectively. The Belgian teammates will square off on March 8th.

On March 3rd, UMMC will play Sparta&K, Meesseman's former squad. The team was so thankful and gracious about Emma when she moved on in this article, here is a quote:

The club's General Director, Anna Arkhipova von Kalmanovich, stated:

"I have followed Emma since the U16 European Championship Women in Naples [in 2009] and after convincing her to come to Vidnoje, it was a pleasure watching her play for us.

"She is a great player, a hard worker and a great human being with an even greater future.

"Now that she is leaving us, I wish her good luck and I would like to tell her that she will always have a special place in our hearts."

Her words were echoed by the Sports Director, Steve Costalas who added, "Signing her was something for which I am very proud - simply because Emma is a player every team dreams of having.

That tells you exactly the type of reputation Meesseman is cultivating for herself. And that match should be fun to watch! Emma versus Maria Vadeeva is a popcorn match for sure. Hope they both get plenty of R&R until then.

PS: I have to add one more thing. This was my reaction to Kim Mestdagh's 30-point performance versus Poland:

This represents the view of the user who wrote the FanPost, and not the entire Bullets Forever community. We're a place of many opinions, not just one.