Many might have been surprised when Emma Meesseman of Belgium was the first overseas player chosen in the WNBA draft (by the Washington Mystics), but the 6-4 post has already earned pleny of honors in Europe even though she won’t turn 20 until May 13.
Her solid season with Villeneuve in France (12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 51 percent shooting) and a respectable showing in the European championships (10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg but 38.5 percent shooting) came on the heels of being elected FIBA’s Young Women’s Player of the Year in 2011. Meesseman beat out Spaniard Queralt Casas and FIBA Europe's Young Women's Player of the Year 2010 Nika Baric of Slovenia for the honor. Meesseman is also the first Belgian to receive a FIBA Europe Player of the Year award in any category.
Meesseman is an intriguing prospect who usually plays at center position. She has very good rebounding skills and an outstanding inside game.She was MVP at the U18 European Championship Romania in 2011 as the Belgian U18 national team had won the very first gold medal in Belgian basketball history by crushing Les Bleuettes of France, 77-49.
"She has great hands," said Daniel Goethais, a former Belgian men’s National Team player and coach of Dexia Namur and current coach of Belgium's women's national team. "Her game vision is also a key point. Her timing in defense and offense allows her almost never to react too late."
"Emma is extremely intelligent on (and off) the court," says Etienne Lourvier, a former Belgian youth national team coach. "Very quickly she understands what needs to be done and can achieve it. Emma can easily find the right timing for blocking shots and has a good body placement when playing defense."
Obviously, such a young player has to get better in some aspects of her game. "Physically speaking, Emma needs to get stronger, gain speed and power," said Goethals. "She plays as a power forward, which is tougher in foreign leagues. Therefore, Emma needs to get perfectly prepared because she still has problems from time to time when playing against very strong opponents. She must absolutely progress in one-on-one situations when facing the rim, especially her right hand and quickness. One last point: She should work on her three-point shooting. So far, there is no need to defend on Emma when she is behind the three-point line."
Louvrier agrees with his colleague. "Physically, she has to build her body to be able to battle in the paint at the highest level, and most of all, get a better base position as well as be quicker when running down the court."
There’s a natural tendency to compare Meesseman with Belgium’s other great post, Ann Wauters, but the comparison really doesn’t hold water. "Emma will never become that type of a player simply because she does not have the same body," said Goethais. "She will have to rely more on technique and outside shooting."
Meesseman definitely has an athletic background, however, as she is the daughter of Belgian Women's Basketball Player of the Year in 1983, Sonja Tankrey.
She also has had plenty of success in international competition. In 2009, Meesseman and her U16 teammates finished second at the FIBA European Championship and the young Belgian center was named MVP of the tournament with 14.6 ppg and 12.8 rpg. One year later, the Belgians finished an unexpected fourth at the FIBA World Championship Women U17 (led by Meesseman’s 14.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg).
In 2011, Meesseman’s 16.9 ppg and 10.3 rpg helped her to the MVP award, and at 18, she played four games with the senior Belgian team during the EuroBasket Women 2011 qualification tournament (against Germany, Italy, Serbia and Romania) and scored 12.5 ppg and grabbed 9 rpg.
Meesseman will face a conflict this summer, however, as the Belgian National Team will take part in the 2013 EuroBasket qualification round's Group C in June, and if the Belgians move on, they could play through September.