At 6’4”, Emma Meesseman stands tall, both on the court and in skill. The Washington star forward’s strength and confidence in her ability has grown since her introduction to the WNBA in 2013. The 23-year-old Belgium native has played for the Mystics for her entire WNBA career, and her performance has steadily improved year by year in a climb to the All-Star echelon.
Since 2014, Meesseman has started in every game for the Mystics (92 straight starts). Though her previous experience in Europe differs from her teammates’ college experiences, Meesseman has continued to grow as an elite basketball player and one of the league’s top performers.
Already well on her way to a career year, Meesseman is averaging 15.7 points per game and has been a leader in the Mystics frontcourt in 2016. The forward has tied or set several career-highs so far this season, including points per game, rebounds, assists, steals, 3-pointers made in a game and minutes played.
While Meesseman’s growth may follow the trajectory of other young players, she attributes her growth to improved confidence, and that she can now contribute as an all-around player. She has always been told that she could make more shots, but has finally broken out of her comfort zone in 2016.
“I think [my improvement] started at the end of last season when I started making threes and expanding my game. My evolution has been a question of confidence and just making my shots,” Meesseman said.
Prior to the 2016 season, Head Coach Mike Thibault challenged each player to play 10% better than the year before, and Meesseman has gone above and beyond on this demand. Thanks to Thibault, her playing time has increased by over two minutes per game, to a team-high 29.8. His increased trust in her game has paid off even more, as Meesseman’s per-game scoring average has increased from 11.6 to 15.7, a whopping 35.3% improvement. She also leads Washington in rebounds per game, total rebounds, and steals.
The 2015 All-Star has become one of the league’s top shooters and currently holds the WNBA’s top three-point percentage at 55.3%, remarkable particularly because she didn’t make any shots beyond the arc in her first two seasons with the Mystics. Her field goal percentage, at 54.1%, also ranks among the best in the league.
“I think it’s the goal of any athlete, I want to be as versatile as possible. Shooting threes was the biggest thing missing from my game. Now I can work on everything— shooting threes, shootings from the 2-point, post-up moves— to keep getting better at each,” said Meesseman.
Meesseman’s growth has already become evident this season, most notably through her first career recognition as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week during the week of June 6 through 12 for her performances against the Dallas Wings and the Minnesota Lynx. She posted a game high of 23 points and 12 rebounds in the June 8th victory over Dallas and a team-high 19 points and seven rebounds in a June 11th loss to Minnesota.
The Player of the Week Award set a positive tone for her performance in the games to follow. On June 14, Meesseman played a career-high 46 minutes, also hitting a career-high four 3-pointers in the triple overtime victory against the Connecticut Sun. She scored a team-high 23 points in the game, 11 of which came in the first six minutes. In the June 26 upset against the Lynx, Meesseman put up 16 of her points on the board in the first quarter, going a perfect 7/7 in the frame.
In July, Meesseman averaged over 17 points per game despite the team’s 0-7 performance. She tied her career-high 24 points in the July 10 loss to the Lynx, shooting 10/17 and providing seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals for the team. Three days later, she once again led the Mystics with 22 points, including netting two 3-pointers.
“I don’t go into a game with the goal of scoring 20 points, but if the opportunity comes for me to shoot the ball, I shoot it. When I can create something, I do it. It’s all in the moment, I’m always trying to win the game,” said Meesseman of her team-leading July performance.
The Mystics, at 9-15, will be looking to gain some momentum when they come out of the Olympic break and go for a playoff spot. Each team member has noted the importance of focus, and each, including Meesseman, hopes to come out of the break with improved skill and a rested body.
“We’re all trying to keep working hard. We all know that we can do it. We can beat all the teams in the league, but the focus has to be there for 40 minutes and not only in moments that we feel good. We have to keep pushing when our shots aren’t going in,” said Meesseman, who will hope to help lead the Mystics to post-season success in the 2016 playoffs.
The Mystics and Meesseman return to finish off regular season play on August 27 when they travel to Indiana to take on the Fever at 7 p.m.