|Emma Meesseman with the tournament MVP trophy after the victorious for Belgium U18 European Championship Women final|
By Adrian Popa
It was a busy summer for Emma Meesseman of EuroCup Women outfit Lotto Young Cats.
She first played with Belgium in the Eurobasket Women 2011 Additional Qualifying Tournament.
Although she was the youngest member of the team, she put on solid performances and finished as their fourth-leading scorer, with 7.7 points per game.
She had two big games in particular, with 20 points against Romania and 21 points against Serbia.
This was just the intro.
The next episode of the show was at the U18 European Championship Women where she was a player on a mission, to play a -big- role in one of the biggest surprises in the 2011 Youth European Championships.
She averaged a double-double in points (16.9) and rebounds (10.3) en route to the show's grand finale, which included a gold medal for Belgium, after defeating Spain in the Semi-Finals and France in the Final, and the MVP trophy for herself.
Three more items to add to her fast-growing collection of awards and prizes, that fills the hall of her grandparents' house.
That is where everything began years ago, when little Emma, five years of age at the time, was trying to dribble a rubber ball.
"I was very young and I wasn't playing yet in a team. I was trying to learn some tricks and I didn't stop trying to dribble until I could do it," Meesseman recalls.
It was the first sign that something special was going to happen with this girl.
Her determination, that now helps her to fight until the very end of the game, ignited the fire.
Of course her mother, Sonja Tankrey, one of the greats of women's basketball in Belgium, also played a great role.
"I started playing basketball because I wanted to be as good as my mother. She was Belgium's best player, had some championships and so on. This is still my goal, and, even though she laughs sometimes about this, my mother helps me a lot reaching that goal and even doing it better," she says.
Meesseman is not trying to copy anybody's game. She just wants to be Emma Meesseman.
"I want to be as good as my mom, so I want her goals, but it is still my game that I have to bring, the manner of playing is mine, like I feel it.
"I'm not playing to imitate anybody because they're my idols. But of course I have respect for Ann Wauters, she has almost achieved everything, so I want the same," she says.
Wauters and Meesseman were both among the candidates for the 2010 FIBA Europe Awards, in the Women's Player of the Year and the Young Women's Player of the Year category respectively.
The shoes are big, as Wauters is considered to be one of the best players ever, but Meesseman is ready to fill them.
The kind of shows she starred in at the U18 European Championship Women, you don't see very often.
She always came up with the key baskets, when it countered the most.
A game-winning shot against Turkey, two game-winning free throws against Spain, and that was just the cherry on top of the cake.
"At that moment, I know I have to score! In the game with Turkey, I didn't think a lot about it, because it all happened so fast.
"But after the game and after the tournament it was like: ‘what if I had missed?' With Spain it was the same story, only more stressful, because they were free throws.
"When I had to take them, there was more time that the emotions and stress could take over, but fortunately the team supported me and I could focus really well," Meesseman, the cold-blooded executioner, explains.
The key to the improbable success was also the extraordinary team spirit and a "never-losing mind attitude," she says.
"We never gave up before the final buzzer. We were realistic and knew that we couldn't dream too much, so we took every game separately, step by step.
It was an extraordinary ride for Belgium, and the real recognition came back home.
"When we arrived at the airport, there were a lot of people cheering for us. They started yelling 'Belgium' and the federation gave us some flowers and we received congratulations from everybody. It was really cool!
"It was nice to see our family back this way. I want to thank all those people again and of course our supporters from Belgium who cheered for us in Oradea," Meesseman adds with gratitude.
And right there, at the airport, the Belgian fans were rewarded with the already popular rendition of the ‘Haka' dance by the champions.
It was an epic summer, which Meesseman hopes to prolong with the Lotto Young Cats in the EuroCup Women.
"From now on, I think I have to decide my future step by step, year by year. Like this I hope to get everything out of my opportunities. My highest goals are the WNBA and the Olympics, that's really my dream," she says.
It will not be a walk in the park. But for this girl that used to tame a rubber ball when she was five, the sky is the limit.
Just stay tuned for the next episode of the Meesseman Show.