Last week, 32 FIBA Europe teams finished the last two games of EuroBasket Women 2019 qualifiers. Of the players on the Mystics, Emma Meesseman is the only one who plays on a European national team. Her Belgian side, which we should know very well at this point, clinched a spot into EuroBasket Women 2019.
EuroBasket Women 2019 will be from June 27 to July 7 in Latvia and Serbia.
Here are some takeaways from this achievement
Belgium made consecutive EuroBasket berths for the first time since 1970
Belgium may have one of women’s basketball’s best players, but they are still newbies when it comes to being a world power. In fact, Belgium has never made two consecutive EuroBasket Women appearances this century. The last time, they made two consecutive EuroBasket Women appearance was in 1968 in Italy and 1970 in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the Belgian team in 1970 just didn’t do very well.
This time, Belgium hopes to change the narrative in 2019 because a high finish next year could give them their first Olympic berth in history.
Emma Meesseman was the most dominant player in qualifiers
Meesseman was the second overall leading scorer in EuroBasket Women 2019 qualifiers, where she averaged 24.3 points in all six games of the qualifiers. In the last two legs last week, she scored 28 points against Germany in a 77-58 win on November 17 and 19 more points in a 66-62 win over the Czech Republic on November 21. You can watch the highlights of Belgium’s win over the Czech Republic above the article. The win wasn’t enough to catapult Belgium to win Group G over one of Europe’s more traditional powers, but it was still more than enough for them to get a EuroBasket berth next year.
Overall, Meesseman was the second leading score and had the second highest efficiency rating in all of the qualifiers. Before you go out of your way and say that Alina Iagupova was the qualifiers’ best player, keep in mind she had to average over 36 minutes a game to put up her numbers. Meesseman only had to average 30. Case closed. You know who’s better.
In closing, Czech women’s basketball team superfan Tomas Satoransky now has some ammunition to throw some trash talk at Meesseman a little bit next year when they bump into each other at the water cooler, whether in D.C. or elsewhere in the European Union. That said, I think I’ll side with the Belgians on this one.
Meesseman shouldn’t report to Washington until mid July in 2019
In 2017, Meesseman suited up for Belgium for the first time in EuroBasket Women. Her mind was clearly split at times because she started the season in Washington with the Mystics at the start of the 2017 season, spent about a month in Belgium and later, the Czech Republic for EuroBasket Women, and then back in D.C. for the rest of the season.
It is admirable that Meesseman spent time in Washington before heading to Belgium to play friendly games, including an emotional game against the Netherlands, their biggest rival. But ultimately, the Mystics have shown that they can make the Finals and thrive without Meesseman. I like Meesseman as much as anyone, but it’s hard to disrupt the Mystics for one player who is consistently going to have international commitments like this.
There is a point to be made that Meesseman is now clearly a Top 10 player worldwide. I think she is. But unfortunately, Meesseman didn’t show enough of that potential as a Mystics player on a consistent basis. And she chose to skip a season when Washington had their best year ever.
The Mystics now have that franchise player in Elena Delle Donne, who effectively replaced Meesseman on the court. Delle Donne is the Mystics’ heart and soul, so it’s hard for me to say that Washington should be extremely flexible for Meesseman now that they are in a different stage of their team building process and that Delle Donne is thriving in a role that Meesseman once had before.
Ultimately, I think it is best for Meesseman to stay in Europe, train with Belgium, and lead the national team as far as it can before reporting to the Mystics, which will probably be in mid July.
The WNBA should have a midseason break for continental competitions like EuroBasket Women
What I said in the previous few paragraphs was tough to say. But much of it is because of the WNBA’s inflexibility with international talent. Players like Meesseman will suffer on the WNBA side because there are no breaks for EuroBasket Women or any continental tournament.
If EuroBasket Women, AmeriCup, AfroBasket, and the Asian Champions all happen simultaneously, it could make things a bit more feasible for the WNBA to have breaks for those competitions. It also makes the league more attractive to international players like Meesseman. The WNBA has had fewer non-American players because of their inflexibility.
And though I admit that I’m taking a rather tough position on where Meesseman should be in 2019 in light of EuroBasket Women, it is because of the WNBA’s structure, not Meesseman’s ability to play.
If we just looked at talent alone, Meesseman must start and be the franchise player within the next few seasons. It’s fair to say that we shouldn’t be suggesting that she be Delle Donne’s backup when it looks like Meesseman will be better than Delle Donne in her prime.
But the reality is that the WNBA isn’t willing to take breaks for international competition right now. And that unfortunately it could hold Meesseman back with the Mystics or any international WNBA player for that matter.
If the WNBA wants to be the best league in the world, they have to have some things like this to make the league more palatable for international stars. Doing something like this could help move the league along in that direction.
Now that Meesseman has led Belgium to a second straight EuroBasket berth after two impressive finishes in EuroBasket Women 2017 and the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, I think it’s clear that she is one of the world’s best players. But what’s up in the air is where she fits in with the Mystics. Where do you think she is the best fit? Let us know in the comments below.