25 September, 2019
19 April, 2020
Players' Voice: Four times around the World in 400 days
Player Story
to read

Players' Voice: Four times around the World in 400 days

EKATERINBURG (Russia) - A journalist from Belgium has done a little math for me by looking up how many kilometers I have spent on an airplane since the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018.

It turns out I have flown about four times around the world in almost 400 days. This was a couple of weeks ago, so I am probably somewhere in trip number five around the world. I was quite surprised by this fact. Either the globe is really small, or I spend about half of my life in the air! And yeah, I also think it is the last one.


The places that the orange ball can bring us to are crazy. I love seeing new places, meeting new people and learning about new cultures. But don't be mistaken, we are not travelling to go on vacation. A lot of times we only see the gym and the hotel of a certain city. We arrive, go straight to practice, eat, sleep, practice again, play a game and fly back home or on to our next stop. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of flying and airports anymore. I used to love it, but now I am waiting for someone to invent teleportation. Just snap your fingers and arrive where you want to be - easy! I know this won't happen any time soon, but just let me dream about it at least.

So, apart from a lot of travels, what else has happened recently? I got to trade my #33 back for #11 on my Belgian jersey for a week! Before I go on, let me answer one question that I get a lot of times - why #11 and #33?

Well, for my whole life I played with 11, as it was my mother's number as well. People told me she was a really good player and she won so many Championships and Cups in Belgium. She even was Player of the Year once! So even if I have never seen her play, she was my idol. I wanted to play with her number and my goal was to be better than her. Mission accomplished.

View this post on Instagram

We ready 🇧🇪

A post shared by Emma Meesseman (@emma_meesseman) on

When I got drafted by the Washington Mystics, I had to pick another number for the first time in my life since 11 was taken. I took 33 and back then, it was not possible to take big number like that with my other teams. So, I thought it was cool to take an 'American number' for my new American adventure. Two years later we found out that #33 is linked to my mother as well. Her two favorite players are Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry Bird. Guess what number they had? Right, it was just meant to be!

Back to my national team, the Belgian Cats. We had our first two games of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers in November. It was great to be back with my team, there was a great atmosphere in our gym and it was also fun to play in Finland. I must give credit to both the Finnish fans and the Belgian ones that traveled all the way to Helsinki!

Before these games, I was a little bit nervous to see how we would play, since this was the first time we were back together after Final Round at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2019. We were not ourselves there and left Serbia with a little sour taste. But already in the practices I could feel that we were ready and that we were going to show who the Belgian Cats truly are. And we did. We played two great games against Ukraine and Finland and came out with two wins.


The national team is special. We don't spend a lot of time together during the year, but when we are, it's like we never left, on and off the court. You are always looking forward to being with the people you grew up with. I really left with a good feeling from the window. We played some good basketball, got a good start towards a new qualification for the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021.

Perhaps most important of all, we also found out that in February 2020 we will play our FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ostend, Belgium! That is going to be so amazing to try to fight for our biggest dream in front of our families and friends. It is such a crazy feeling to be so close from my my biggest wish since I was a little kid. I remember drawing the Olympic rings in my books in school.

We will play Japan, Canada and Sweden. I was hoping that, when I would find who we will play, I would be able to tell people how much chances we have of qualifying. Turns out that is impossible, we have three very complete teams against us and we are going to have to be at our top level in order to qualify. Luckily we play at home and have our sixth man right there with us.

View this post on Instagram

All I need. #focus

A post shared by Emma Meesseman (@emma_meesseman) on

After that window, I went back to Ekat. Mother Russia welcomed me back with a feeling temperature of -29°C, but luckily it 'heated up' a couple days later. Gotta love the cold when you play here.

So far we are doing great, although we do have one loss though, against Riga. We take it as more motivation. People are going to come at us and play their hearts out, so we have to be prepared for that, no matter who we play. So now we are back on track, we are finishing 2019 with a good feeling. Meanwhile our Russian teammates at UMMC participate in the Finals of the Russian Cup, with us, foreigners, not allowed to participate in this competition, but always the best supporters for our teammates.

Recently my dad came over to Russia so we could spend some time together. After my last article, somebody asked me how I maintain relationships with family and friends. Well, this is one way.

My parents book their vacation taking into account my schedule - in Hotel Emma. Usually they try to come once in America and twice in Russia. It is not like we can do a ton of stuff, because of practices and games. Most of the time we are living life like we do at home, but just in a different country. We cook Belgian food together, go for walks and just chill. I dare say that Washington D.C. and Ekat don't have that many secrets anymore.

With my friends it is different. With them, it is all about social media. I am thankful for the internet, although I know it is also a curse. We all are too busy with our smartphones and tablets. Truth is, without it, I would probably not be able to pursue my basketball career as I need to be able to have contact with my home and my people.

What I remember most of my mother's 'back in my day' stories as a player, is how she had to send letters by airmail - and in envelopes with red and blue stripes. Can you imagine? I play in Russia! I should actually do the test and send a letter just to see how long that would take.


But I have really good friends. It does not matter how far away I am, or if we don't hear each other regularly. They keep supporting me and when I get back, it is like I never left. Some of them are also a little bit crazy and randomly decide to drive 12 hours to see me play the Final Four in Hungary (twice)!

In order to be able to live this life, I need those kind of people around me. If they did not support me like they do now, I would not be able to spend more than 11 months away from home. I miss a lot of milestones in my best friends' life or those of my family. I am also lonely sometimes, but I am also seeing the world and every day I get to play basketball! I am playing with some amazing people that I would never meet in a normal life.

I would say for now, all the sacrifices I make are definitely worth it and I am truly living my dream. ​

Emma Meesseman

Emma Meesseman

A star with the Belgian Cats on the global and European stage where she has received a string of individual accolades, Emma is also a multi EuroLeague Women champion with UMMC Ekaterinburg of Russia and the 2018 Final Four MVP. In 2019 she also added to her growing popularity Stateside when she not only became a WNBA champion with the Washington Mystics, but was also crowned the Finals MVP. Now she is showing her skills off the court by giving us all an exclusive insight into her life as an elite baller.

You can also follow Emma on IG via @emma_meesseman