The Mystics start training camp on Sunday with an 18-man roster. However, they will only start with 15 players. Let’s go through why below.
Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver expected to report on May 10
According to Gene Wang of The Washington Post, Meesseman and Toliver are expected to join the Mystics on May 10. That gives time for the two to get a little rest between the end of UMMC’s season and the beginning of the WNBA season on May 14.
LaToya Sanders will miss the 2017 season
Also according to Wang, Sanders will miss the 2017 season because of foot surgery. That’s a blow because she had a very strong 2015 performance when she averaged 5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks off the bench and was one of the Mystics most consistent players that season. In 2016, she missed the first two thirds of the season due to Olympic commitments with the Turkish national team. However, when Sanders came back, her time was limited because she was diagnosed with a foot injury after she played just four games.
Since Sanders won’t have an active spot on the Mystics’s roster, that makes post depth an even bigger concern.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt recently had back spasms, but the rest of the roster is healthy according to Wang.
The impact of EuroBasket Women on the Mystics
One of the key questions coming into this season is the impact of EuroBasket Women on the Mystics. Both Meesseman and Toliver are European Union citizens and play for teams on European countries. Meesseman is Belgian, and Toliver is Slovak where they have played on their national teams. Also, both Belgium and Slovakia made EuroBasket Women 2017, which starts in June.
Toliver did not play in Slovakia’s qualifiers last year, so it remains to be seen as to whether she plays in EuroBasket. According to a 2014 article by Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post, she acquired Slovakian citizenship and its quick application process so she could earn more money on FIBA Europe professional teams.
I’m assuming that Toliver will not play for Slovakia in EuroBasket because she did not play during qualifiers. Also, EuroBasket Women 2017 results does not affect Slovakia’s — or any European team’s — chances for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
The Belgium women’s national team begins training on May 9, host key friendlies in June
Meesseman, unlike Toliver, did play for her national team during qualifiers, and led Belgium to its first EuroBasket Women appearance in 10 years. In light of that, you’d think that the Cats are going to do any and everything they can to have a strong performance at EuroBasket Women in June.
Though the tournament is in June, the women’s national team (or The Belgian Cats) will train and play friendlies for a month beforehand. They start training on May 9. As we’ve mentioned before, this is a major conflict with the WNBA season in a vacuum.
Furthermore, the Cats will play several games before EuroBasket. They really want to start this tournament on the right foot.
According to the Koninklijke Belgische Basketbalbond (link in Dutch), the Cats will also play several friendlies in order to prepare and they will be tough.
Their first international matches will be against Russia, Italy, and Hungary from May 26 to 28 in a internal round robin based in Italy.
After that, they’re playing three friendlies in West Flanders, which just happens to be Meesseman’s home province in Belgium. The Cats will first have two home games against Spain on June 2 in Wevelgem and June 3 in Kortrijk. The games against the Spanish will probably be the two toughest games for them. Finally, the Belgians’ sendoff game is on June 10 in Meesseman’s hometown of Ieper when they will host the Netherlands, their arch rival.
We haven’t been told that Meesseman will miss the first half of the season because of friendlies AND EuroBasket Women. But the Belgians are also hosting Spain in cities close to her hometown, and Meesseman probably salivates over any chance to beat the Dutch for Benelux supremacy, especially in her hometown.
Given how the Mystics’ offseason has been, I hope she’ll play for the Mystics until EuroBasket Women starts in earnest on June 16. However, I don’t blame her if she misses all of June for the games against Spain and the Netherlands.
Either way, if you don’t appreciate Meesseman that much now because of her flaws, you may think differently this summer when she misses games.