On Monday, Kim Mestdagh signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics. Locally, the news of the signing was dwarfed by LaToya Sanders’ re-signing that same day. But in her native Belgium, it’s a much bigger deal. Mestdagh will be playing on the same team as forward Emma Meesseman and it will be interesting to see how much time they will spend on the court together as Mystics players.
In an interview with Sporza, a Belgian Dutch language sports site, Mestdagh gave her reactions and thoughts on the move. It also gives more insight on what to expect from Mestdagh, Meesseman, and the Mystics this season.
Mike Thibault wanted to sign Mestdagh since 2017
One of the first things that stood out in Mestdagh’s interview was that Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault wanted to sign her since EuroBasket Women 2017. He also went to the World Cup last year in Spain, not just to say “Hi” to Meesseman. He was there for Mestdagh too.
“Two years ago after EuroBasket Women 2017, Mike Thibault said he was interested in signing me,” Mestdagh said in the Sporza interview. “During the FIBA Women’s World Cup last year, he gave me a closer look. My overall performance in the World Cup is why I received an invitation to training camp.”
Mestdagh averaged 16.2 points per game for Belgium in the World Cup and shot 16-of-33 from the three-point line. She was the sixth overall leading scorer as well.
Since it’s apparent that Thibault eyed her for a couple years, hopefully that’s enough to convince some skeptical local fans about Mestdagh’s ability to play at the WNBA level.
Mestdagh is expected to report to Washington on May 24. If so, she made the team.
The Sporza interview also gave specifics on when Mestdagh will report to Washington for training camp. The article said she will do so on May 24, but this is just one day before Washington’s season opener against the Connecticut Sun the following day.
Perhaps the specific day she comes to camp was lost in translation from English to Dutch. But assuming she’s coming on May 24, Mestdagh’s training camp invite is more of a formality since it appears that she made the team. It wouldn’t make sense for Mestdagh to travel to Washington and get cut that same day, right?
This training camp contract is probably a way for the Mystics to secure her availability without hurting their existing salary cap space to sign their existing free agents or other American players who they are targeting. They re-signed Sanders and Natasha Cloud in the past week.
Mestdagh also didn’t say anything to the contrary about when she’s coming. If anything, her comments seem to indicate that.
“[Coach Thibault] already told me that he wants to see me for a longer period,” Mestdagh said in regard to training camp. “He also said that I can return to Belgium to prepare for the 2019 Women’s EuroBasket in Belgium.
“Actually, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to play in the WNBA. It’s a secret dream of every women’s basketball player. I’m very motivated and will give it my all.”
There is no specific mention on when Meesseman is going to report to Washington, but it’s probably that she won’t report until May 24 as well.
Mestdagh will look up to Meesseman for guidance as a WNBA player
Mestdagh is 28-years old and in the prime of her career. Meesseman won’t be 26 until May 13. So in the past, Meesseman probably looked up to Mestdagh as a mentor on the court. Both players are also from Ieper in West Flanders so they probably go way back in time.
But with the Mystics, these roles will be somewhat reversed. Mestdagh is entering her rookie (though she’s not a true professional rookie) season while Meesseman is a seasoned veteran in the WNBA game. Overall, I think she’ll find it just fine.
“It’s great for me that Emma’s there. We’re from the same city. She can show me the way. I let her know immediately after I signed and she was very happy,” Mestdagh said in regard to Meesseman.
What we don’t know: How much playing time will Mestdagh get? And how much will she and Meesseman get together?
As excited as I am to see Mestdagh as a WNBA player, I’m not sure how much playing time she will get in Washington. The guard rotation is quite deep already. However, Mestdagh is a sharpshooter who has shined on the international stage. The Mystics should be able to find some time for her to make an impact.
Also, Mestdagh and Meesseman have developed a lot of chemistry on the Belgian national team over the years. It makes sense for them to show that in the WNBA as well. Meesseman is going to find her playing time one way or another. But will we get to see extended moments of the Belgian duo as well? That will likely depend on how Mestdagh plays against WNBA competition.
Hopefully, Mestdagh finds her time and plays significantly with Meesseman. But if nothing else, they’re friends. So in celebration of that and for us to get more accustomed to Belgian pop culture, let’s play Belgian rapper Soufiane Eddyani’s “Amigo,” one of the top urban songs in Dutch-speaking Belgium (NSFW for Dutch profanity). As you can see, Dutch-speaking rappers are just as tough as their English-speaking counterparts.:
Anyway, I’m pumped. Let’s go Mystics!