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Women’s EuroBasket 2019 Preview: Emma Meesseman, Kim Mestdagh look to lead Belgium to consistency, Olympic qualifying berth

The Mystics duo will look to lead Belgium to an Olympic qualifying tournament appearance.

Emma Meesseman, Kim Mestdagh
Emma Meesseman and Kim Mestdagh look to lead Belgium to another strong appearance in Women’s EuroBasket 2019.
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Two years ago, we wrote about Belgium’s journey to EuroBasket Women 2017 where they won the bronze medal. It was a big moment for Mystics forward Emma Meesseman, because her national team went to the World Cup the following year and was fourth place in it. Another player on that team, Kim Mestdagh was able to use her experience with Belgium to make the Mystics’ roster this year.

The tournament has since been renamed to Women’s EuroBasket, but the aim of the tournament remains the same. A strong performance will help solidify Belgium as one of Europe’s powers. A disappointing performance on the other hand w

Why does it matter? They aren’t playing for the Mystics right now!

Until Meesseman at least is traded or not re-signed to the roster, we’re going to cover something that is very important to her. But even then, the Mystics are missing two players for this tournament, but it’s not like Meesseman and Mestdagh just headed to the Brussels Grote Markt to eat Liège Waffles and drink Duvels all day.

They left the Mystics for a national calling. So yes, call this a “shadow season” if you will. But the Belgian team has influence on what the Mystics do short and perhaps medium term. So we have to keep track of it.

Who is on the Belgian national team roster?

Number Player Position Birth Year Team
Number Player Position Birth Year Team
#9 Marjorie Carpreaux G 1987 Kangoeroes Mechelen (BEL)
#11 Emma Meesseman C 1993 WASHINGTON MYSTICS
#22 Hanne Mestdagh F 1993 BC Namur Capitale (BEL)
#5 Kim Mestdagh G 1990 WASHINGTON MYSTICS
#42 Jana Raman F 1991 Valencia (ESP)
#35 Julie Vanloo G 1993 Townsville Fire (AUS)
#13 Kyara Linskens C 1996 Enisey (RUS)
#12 Ann Wauters C 1980 None Listed
#6 Antonia Delaere F 1994 Nantes Rezé Basket (FRA)
#32 Heleen Nauwelaers F 1996 Bembibre (ESP)
#55 Julie Allemand G 1996 Lyon (FRA)
#23 Seren-Lynn Geldof C 1997 BC Namur Capitale (BEL)
KBBB and FIBA, also h/t to Geert Balenberg

When are Belgium’s games and how can I watch?

Belgium is in Group D against Russia, Serbia and Belarus. Here’s the schedule

  • Thursday, June 27 — vs. Russia at 10:45 a.m. ET
  • Friday, June 28 — vs. Belarus at 10:45 a.m. ET
  • Sunday, June 30 — vs. Serbia at 1:30 p.m. ET

All games are streamed on ESPN Plus or LiveBasketball.TV. Maybe Kevin De Bruyne could do the same since he forgot that the women’s basketball team runs the hardwood in Belgium more than the men’s!

Who are some players whom we should keep an eye on?

Meesseman is Belgium’s best player. Mestdagh is Belgium’s best guard. Though long-time WNBA veteran center Ann Wauters is on the team, the Cats are actually a stronger team in on the perimeter. Mestdagh and point guards Julie Vanloo (Vahn-low, not Van - lou), Julie Allemand and Marjorie Carpreaux have been excellent orchestrators for the Belgians’ offense over the last couple years.

Teams are going to focus on trying to stop Meesseman. But slowing down Vanloo and Carpreaux is a good way to keep Belgium under control.

What’s at stake?

The Top-six teams in this tournament will get a berth to next year’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Sixteen teams will participate, including Japan, the host of the 2020 Olympics and the United States, the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup winners.

What are Belgium’s chances of getting in the Top-6?

Pretty good. But Belgium is also in the “Group of Death” where each of Belgium’s opponents made an Olympics since 2012.

If Belgium makes the Top-6, will Meesseman and Mestdagh miss the first half of the 2020 season?

Meesseman will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020 but there’s a good chance she gets cored by Washington, assuming the next CBA has the core player designation in place. From there, it depends on whether Meesseman wants to continue playing the WNBA, especially if the WNBA keeps draconian rules that deter non-Americans from wanting to play stateside.

Keep in mind that the Mystics have played better without her than with her on the roster in the last couple years. So it’s not like Washington absolutely needs her to compete in the short (or even medium term). As for Mestdagh, I’m not optimistic that she remains in the WNBA if all the time she gets is in meaningless moments.

But to answer this question, if both re-sign to remain in D.C. for 2020, they will miss most or all of the season if Belgium makes the qualifying tournament and the Olympics if the WNBA doesn’t pause the season for the Olympic qualifying tournament. The main wrinkle next year is that the United States must participate despite already qualifying for it.

How far does Belgium go in Women’s EuroBasket?

I predict that they’ll finish with a medal instead and even have a chance to win gold. The Belgians’ biggest obstacle is France, their southern neighbors.

France also has a familiar face in Mystics alumna Bria Hartley. Unlike some Americans who naturalize for other teams, Hartley had dual French citizenship from her mother’s side of the family and elected to play for their team.

And in case you missed it from 2014, here’s what Hartley did!

We’ll see what happens, but Belgium now has a target on their backs because of their performances in their last two international tournaments. It will be interesting to see if they can replicate their magic from two years ago or if they will just be one-hit wonders.