Belgium defend, run towards the future

10 August 2008

It should be no surprise to see Etienne Louvrier smiling at the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women. After all, the Belgium coach's team won their first two games in Katowice and already accomplished their goal for the tournament.

Belgium face off with Sweden on Sunday and could take top honours in Group B with a victory.

"Our first goal was to stay in Division A and be in the top 12. And now we have done that," said Louvrier after Belgium's second convincing victory - a 71-54 win over the Czech Republic.

Louvrier's girls held the Czechs to 27 percent shooting after forcing Ukraine to turn over the ball 36 times in a 93-35 rout in the opener.

"We are very, very happy because our defense made the difference. Now anything else that happens will be great for us."

Belgium coach Etienne Louvrier
Belgium coach Etienne Louvrier
Louvrier's team is small with Emma Meesseman as the main interior player for the Belgians, who rely on a game with high pressure and running. And the 1.88m Meesseman has been the key, averaging 11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.5 steals and 5.0 blocks.

"She controls our team. She is very smart, very intelligent. If she has a bad game, we have bad games," the coach said of Meeseman.

Meesseman also is one of four players for Louvrier born in 1993 - a fact that leaves plenty of promise for the future of Belgian basketball.

"I'm happy for next year also. We will have much more confdience and much more background. And we have two or three good 1994 players also," said Louvrier.

His U16 team, however, is just a part of those positive perspectives. Last summer Belgium finished fifth at the U21 FIBA World Championship in Russia and five of those players are expected to move into the senior side of recently-named head coach Olaf Stolz.

Louvrier said the nation's U18 side does not have a lot of top level talent but believes that three of his players - Julie Vanloo, Meesseman and Anne-Sophie De Bondt - could make the senior side in about five years.

And crucial for the development of those girls will be the continued work of Arvid Diels, who took over as director of the women basketball in the federation after being assistant coach for Laurent Buffard before he stepped down as Belgian senior side boss in 2007 following the team's failed qualification for the 2008 Olympics.

"I have a great relationship with Arvid Diels. He oversees everything and we work in the same way - the same offense, the same defense. And we are working for the future," said Louvrier.

If the first two games of the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women is any sign of the future, then Louvrier should be helping Belgian hoops fans smile plenty more in years to come.

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