With the Wizards, we're often talking about players' hometowns and how the locals embrace them. This is especially with notable NBA free agents from the D.C. area, like ... Kevin Durant. After all, Durant's from the D.C. area, and people claim him as one of their own.
For the Mystics, it's similar because most of the roster is American. A couple players on the current team are also from the D.C. area. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is from Alexandria while Tianna Hawkins is from Prince George's County, Maryland.
But when it comes to international players, we often find it harder to relate to them. This is especially for those whose first language isn't English, at least for us here in the United States.
You may already know that Emma Meesseman is from Belgium. But more specifically, she's from Ieper*, West Flanders. Meesseman's first language is Dutch and Belgium is definitely not the first part of Europe we think of when it comes to basketball. And just to play on the Belgian stereotype, what's there to do in Ieper besides eating chocolates and waffles while drinking excellent beer?
Simple. It's a great place to develop your basketball skills. Just look at where Meesseman is right now. She's on the cusp of being a WNBA superstar. And even her swaggy-partner-in-crime Kim Mestdagh, a former guard for Colorado State is also from there .
Check out this video from Bonka Circus, a Leuven-based media company with its series, "Fanatico." They completed a video feature on Meesseman right after the Belgian national team played its EuroBasket qualifier against Poland which is embedded above. As a note, since "Fanatico" was made by a Flemish entity, the entire video is in Dutch (no subtitles).
In the video, "Fanatico" host Babett Manalo traveled to Ieper and met Meesseman who was practicing with and hung out with the Ieper Blue Cats, a girls team in the area.
Though I'll admit that I love consuming almost every piece of Meesseman-related content as it pertains to the Mystics, I was actually more intrigued by the Blue Cats, who view Meesseman as being more than "just another WNBA player." It's because we now get a chance to see how folks in her hometown view her as opposed to how American WNBA fans would.
Manalo chatted with a few of the girls on the team, who were quick to point out facts about her like she is playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia and also for the Mystics.
There are several scenes in the video that are worth noting, like a crowd of parents watching Meesseman practice with the girls.
Meesseman also took pictures with little girls who want to be like her one day,
as well as the star-struck players who had a chance to practice with an All-Star.
And, so you know, despite every stats-related piece you may have read on her, Meesseman's not perfect. She missed a free throw at the 5:25 mark. After that, a coach jokingly said in English, "Come on Emma! No stress!"
I still wonder if she challenged him to a one-on-one duel after getting called out like that. I hope she dunked on him but I digress. :)
And finally, Manalo can't help but blush when she saw not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of the Blue Cats proudly donning their Meesseman-sponsored jerseys at the end.
Despite her accomplishments in the WNBA, Meesseman still hasn't exactly caught on fire with WNBA and women's basketball fans here in America and the D.C. area. At least not yet.
But in Ieper, it's great to see that she is more of a rock star to the players who want to follow her footsteps.
Since the Wizards recently held Polish Heritage Night for Marcin Gortat, why can't the Mystics host a Belgian Heritage Night for Meesseman? If someone can get the Ieper Blue Cats to fly over to D.C., it would also be a great experience for the girls on the team. Just a thought.
*Ieper is also known in English by its French name, Ypres.