From PA International, Kortrijk
Belgium coach Benny Mertens won’t have his best player until a few days before the European Championships but he is all smiles anyway.
Mertens, who will take the women’s team to their first championships since 1985, watched his squad win all three games in the Samsung Tournament they hosted over the weekend.
Belgium lost three games at the Lorient tournament in France and then dropped two more against Australia, but they finally tasted victory on home soil against Sweden, Germany and Holland.
Belgium prevailed over the Swedes 89-63 and then beat Germany 81-71 before capping a perfect few days with an 87-43 thrashing of the Dutch.
None of the opponents are in the European Championships in Greece later this month, but for Mertens, the outcomes are a relief because his players needed a dose of confidence.
The absence of South Korean-based Ann Wauters has been telling as Belgium have struggled to keep their poise against top opposition.
Against Australia in the second game in Luik, Belgium stormed out to a commanding 25-9 lead in the first seven minutes of the game but couldn’t hold on.
The physical Aussies hit back and eventually cruised to a 75-61 win.
Wauters, who stands 6ft 4in (193 cm) and weighs 187 pounds, will not be pushed around by opposing centres.
In the second game of the South Korean Championship she scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots as Samsung won 78-66 over Woori Bank to even the best-of-five series at 1-1.
Belgium should be a much-improved side once she arrives, even though she will have missed virtually all of the preparation work for the tournament.
She will miss the final preparation tournament from September 12-14 in Pyrgos against Greece, Slovakia and France.
Meanwhile, if there was a silver lining to the defeats against Australia, it was the play of 19-year-old Katrien Vercauteren.
Mertens was impressed so much by the Euronyl Waregem point guard that he rewarded her with a place in the final squad.