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Four takeaways from the Mystics’ overseas destinations (so far)

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One player will be hanging out with some of Emma Meesseman’s Belgian Cat teammates. Really.

kahleah copper Stewart W. Small

In the world of American professional basketball, the fall, winter, and spring is dedicated to the NBA. And in the women’s game, the focus generally is on college basketball since WNBA players are overseas. For the latter, it’s kind of a shame because these overseas leagues are often where WNBA players are making most of their money and spending most of their time.

San Antonio Stars forward (and D.C. area native) Monique Currie, along with her team at Women’s Basketball 24.7 have done an excellent job covering overseas leagues over the last year. We certainly want to give them a shout out for what they do, especially with the overseas leagues which we don’t pay nearly enough attention to.

They compiled a list of WNBA players and the teams they will play with during the NBA season. Here are the Mystics’ overseas destinations, that we know of so far.

Washington Mystics 2016-17 overseas destinations

There are some things that stand out.

No one is committing to Turkey ... yet

The KBSL, Turkey’s premier women’s division is traditionally one of the top women’s basketball leagues in Europe. Besides Turkish national team member LaToya Sanders, Ivory Latta, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Ally Malott, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, and Natasha Cloud all played for various teams in the league.

On June 28, Istanbul Atatürk Airport was attacked by three perpetrators who committed a mass shooting before killing themselves. 45 people died (including the perpetrators), and over 230 people were injured. Then on July 15, there was a failed coup d’état by the military.

Some WNBA players who are under contract for 2016-17 with Turkish teams have decided to remain despite the political issues, but other players are leaning toward not doing so. No Mystics players were cited in this Women’s Basketball 24.7 piece about the issue, but Cloud and Malott are heading to Australia one year after playing in Turkey, for what it’s worth.

Kahleah Copper is going to Belgium, which is very interesting

I finished the last paragraph on the topic of national security. So let me start with all the bad news about Belgium, and then we’ll get to something more enticing.

Belgium unfortunately is getting a rep of being the “home of European terror.” Many of the perpetrators of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France were Belgians. Then on March 22, 2016, Brussels had three coordinated suicide bombings that were at Brussels Airport and in a Maalbeek-area metro station. Finally, in mid June, Belgium claimed that its national security thwarted a planned terrorist attack on soccer fans watching the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament.

I’ve hinted it in several pieces, but Belgium is kind of a “hodge-podge country,” largely due to the language divide between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Brussels is traditionally Dutch-speaking and is officially bilingual. But in reality, Brussels is a mostly-francophone city today because it is the center of the European Union, and French is a more practical language than Dutch. And I didn’t even get to the small segment of German-speaking Belgians yet. Anyway, this explainer from Vox is worth reading about Belgium’s language politics and how that ties in with national security.

All of that said, things like this can happen anywhere. And when you look at Copper signing with Castors Braine in Braine-l’Alleud (Eigenbrakel in Dutch), this looks like one hell of a move to me. Here’s why:

  • Copper will be on one of the top teams in Belgium and will play in EuroCup Women games. That means she’ll get to play against quality teams in other countries whose leagues are often stronger.
  • Castor Braine’s head coach is Philip Mestdagh. He is also the head coach of the Belgian National Team.
  • Copper will have Belgian Cats as teammates. Julie Allemand, the 33rd pick of the 2016 WNBA Draft is the point guard for this team. Antonia Delaere was also on the EuroBasket Women qualifiers squad. Manon Grzesinski also was in consideration for the team.

Maybe Belgium’s road to the Olympics is not too far-fetched? Hmmmm. It’s way too early to assume what Copper wants to do with her national team hopes. But seeing a Mystics player going to Belgium for the winter is hard to ignore once you see the national team connections.

Korea has a stronger league than we give them credit for

Korea has only produced one WNBA player in league history, but the WKBL (or 한국여자프로농구 Han-kook Yuh-jah Pro Nohng-Goo in Korean) has hosted a number of WNBA players including now-retired player Lauren Jackson in 2007.

Tianna Hawkins will play for KDB in Guri, about 10 miles east of Seoul. She will have one WNBA teammate with Wings forward Karima Christmas who is averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. 12 players, including Hawkins and Christmas will be in Korea this fall and winter. In addition, Wings rookie Aerial Powers (9.8 ppg) will be in the league too. Finally, Currie herself will also be there, where she will play for Asan Woori Bank Wibee. It is in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, about 60 miles south of Seoul.

Mystics players on EuroLeague teams are happy to stay where they are

Emma Meesseman and Kia Vaughn play for UMMC and USK Praha, the last two EuroLeague women champions. Since Meesseman was transferred there last winter and Vaughn is Praha’s starting center, there’s no need for them to find a change in scenery.