Young Belgian Players Get European Experience

03 November 2010

By Christian Detroz

Belgian women's basketball has produced some fine players over the years, but the country hasn't had a team to make a major impact in European competition.

That could change in the coming seasons.

For the first time in the history of Belgian women's basketball, three clubs are taking part in European competition.

All three are competing in EuroCup Women.

11. Stephanie Dubuc (Dexia W Namur)
Stephanie Dubuc, 25, is considered a veteran in the very youthful Dexia Namur roster

Among them are the Belgian champions St-Katelijne Waver, who decided to go into Europe for the first time in the club's history.

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to this team.

In their opening EuroCup Women game against Hungarian outfit Szeged-Szeviep, a team that played in the EuroLeague Women last season, St-Katelijne Waver prevailed 71-64 with American center Melissa Dennett pouring in 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Belgian players compose the rest of the team and some of them also stood out in the clash with Szeged.

Daphne Van Dessel had 15 points, Sara Leemans 12 and Miete Celus 10.

"Just as we are doing in our national competition, we want to grow step by step", said Arvid Diels, the coach of St-Katelijne Waver and the boss of the Belgium women's national team.

"Our next challenge is to participate in the EuroCup and build something.

"It's the beginning of a long story, I hope.

"But we have to put pressure on ourselves because we won. So what's next?"

One of the Belgian sides that needs no introduction is the ever present in Europe Namur.

Known as Dexia Namur Capitale, a team that has been on the European scene for nearly 17 years, Dexia lost their first game at home to Venezia, 63-59.

The coach, Didier Prinsen, remained upbeat.

"Every European game is positive and gives us something more than to just compete in our national competition," coach Didier Prinsen said.

Prinsen has 20 years of coaching experience in the Belgian top flight.

"We really have a hard draw with the Italian team and Arras (of France), but we're going to try our best and it's an opportunity also for our young players to compete on the European level."

A Commitment To Youth

The third Belgian side in the EuroCup Women goes by the name Lotto Young Cats.

This is an outfit that is definitely worth following because it is a selection of the most talented young players in Belgium.

Many teams from around Belgium sent their players to Lotto Young Cats.

The aim of the Lotto Young Cats project, which is being sponsored by the Belgian Olympic Committee, is to give international experience to the most talented young players.

It is a long-term project, one that looks ahead to the Olympic Games of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

"It's a unique experience for these young players," said Philip Mestdagh, the coach of Blue Cats Ieper - the actual leaders of the Belgian competition.

"The evaluation of the project is not based purely on the results, but on the individual development of each player."

"Most of the players, not everybody, are selected in the youth national teams," added Eddy Swaeb, the manager of the project.

"We have to congratulate all the coaches who have participated in the development of these young players.

"The enthusiasm of the group is unique and the experience for the future for each player is incredible."

The team has an average of 17.9 years of age and is built around the rising star of Belgium, Emma Meesseman.

She made an immediate impact on the EuroCup Women last week with 22 points and 10 rebounds against Olivais Coimbra in Portugal.

The Young Cats claimed an impressive 73-47 triumph.


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