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11 Emma Meesseman (BEL)
12/02/2019
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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The best global roster of FIBA talent for 2019?

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen’s Women’s Basketball Worldwide) – I was asked to name a global FIBA women’s basketball roster that would be the most talented and fun to watch at any time in 2019.

Fair enough, since there is no major global women’s tournament at senior level this year as we  find ourselves sandwiched between the Tokyo Olympics and last year's FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.

With this impossible but delicious mission of somehow needing to shoehorn at least 25 contenders into 12 spots, this is what I came up with. Oh and there was just one regulation/rule that I was forced to follow – namely that no more than 3 players were allowed from a single nation.

I also did as much as I could to choose players on a combination of form, expectation and the ability to get me off my seat.

Kia Nurse – Canada

It it genuinely not a backhanded compliment to Nurse when I say that there is a dearth of special point guards in the women's game at the highest level. For me, the Canadian is obviously highly talented as we have witnessed in the youth ranks, NCAA, WNBA and with Canada. I still get the feeling that there is more to come from her. I watched all those pull up jumpers in Tenerife at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 and got frustrated sometimes, but if she gets the balance right moving forward, the sky is still the limit. She has seemingly been around forever yet has another decade at least ahead of her at the elite level.

Marine Johannes – France

I caused a bit of an issue last week by adding to the #Johannesque by suggesting that we should have #Johannessist for when a pass is particularly entertaining. I suspect not only when it comes from her own hands, but also from the hands of aspiring guards who rightly look to model their game in the French genius. I can hear "That was a Johannessist" on the practise courts. I also caused a fuss for calling her campaign in Tenerife last year 'mediocre' - mainly because I forgot to caveat it with 'against her own incredible standards'. I love her game and could watch it all day. Especially for Bourges Basket where she gets more of a licence to shine than with France. Still one of the best players yet to step out in the WNBA.

Alina Iagupova – Ukraine


And, talking of the best players still not play WNBA. I would put Iagupova somewhere on that podium for sure. She really is something else as I have said on so many occasions. The power, the handles, the shooting, the vision, the physique. This is a player built for the WNBA and at lest we can enjoy her in EuroCup Women and for Ukraine at the FIBA Women's EuroBasket Final Round this summer. A phenomenal player who gets about 30-40% of the respect and credit her game actually deserves in a global context. 

Cecilia Zandalasini – Italy


I have to confess to something. Watching Zandalasini play at Fenerbahce is like being forced to digest a diet version of your favorite drink or food. It is still real nice, but there is just that something missing which niggles at you. I always had reservations and maybe it will all end up going gloriously well and I will eat my own words. I am most looking forward  to her pulling on an Italy shirt and getting the green light and  thumbs up to be number one or two in a team and to do her thing again from play-caller Marco Crespi. A game changer, momentum-shifter, clutch operator and entertaining, who would not have her in their global team?

Alba Torrens – Spain

I am guessing that even Torrens herself would confess that she did not quite find top gear while playing on home soil at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018. But don't worry, it is the year of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket and the 2017 MVP always saves her best for this competition and before that arrives, will probably bag yet another EuroLeague Women title. Still so much fun to watch in every way, from her deadliness in transition, sweet assists and ability to make big shots at the right time - she is a no-brainer for me. Oh and on the topic of global stars still not to have played WNBA, I think ladies and gentleman, we have found our number one!

Samantha Whitcomb - Australia


I am now a fully paid up member of the Whitcomb fan club. Parachuted into that Opals camp in Tenerife, she was a key contributor in propelling her nation to the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Final. That came hot off the back of the WNBA ring with Seattle and for the past 6 months or so, she has been exceptional for BLMA in EuroCup Women. She has put up some insane numbers and displays. Real jaw-droppers. Her shooting skills have been on full view and combined with her smarts, I think we just have to accept there is no better late bloomer on the FIBA stage. 

Elena Delle Donne – USA


I get you. I am on a hiding to nothing even trying to pick USA players to include in this thing. Seeing her game up close last year in Tenerife, even though she was injured for some of the Worlds, made me realize even more what a class act she was. For any global women's basketball follower, it is true that you can see players hundreds of times in games and on highlights reel, but you usually have to see them in person to really get it. Like so many of you out there, I love Delle Donne a lot. It's a pity we have still not see her in EuroLeague Women and I still live in hope. Especially after she told me it was unlikely but she was not ruling it out completely. 

Clarissa Dos Santos – Brazil

I know, this one will have come a little out of leftfield for some of you. But, bear with me. In recent times, we have hardly seen anything of Brazil on the international scene and that is mostly a pity because of massive talents like Dos Santos, who I think is now playing the best basketball of her career. At least she is in a Lyon best where in EuroCup Women, she has engaged 'beast mode' and nobody can live with her massive double-doubles and all around game right now. In picking this global roster, I wanted to include a South American player so badly as basketball in that region has taken some criticism on and off the court in the past 5 years. But there are gems like Dos Santos and she is fun to watch  - so she is in!

Breanna Stewart – USA

No real explanation necessary for the reigning WNBA MVP, WNBA Finals MVP and FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup MVP.  And having also  now stepped into EuroLeague Women she has made one long-standing dream of mine come true. 'Stewie' is the best - bar none.

Emma Meesseman - Belgium

When you have watched the journey of a 16-year-old playing for Belgium who has made the All-Star Five at successive major FIBA tournaments, played in the WNBA and is was the 2018MVP of EuroLeague Women Final Four, it gives you a sense of added satisfaction. Mainly because in my near decade working with FIBA, she is one of the first players who made an impression on me and now everyone else is seeing what I saw in those first few games when she was a kid. A super player and super person, Meesseman was one of the first names on this list.

Brittney Griner - USA

The more I see Brittney Griner and the more I speak to Brittney Griner, the more I like Brittney Griner. I also think that when she was missing from that USA team in Tenerife, you fully realized just what a top level star she truly is. I also note her seemingly having more fun on the court. I could be plain wrong of course, but I have lost count of how many times her tremendous displays in EuroLeague Women have been accompanied by her joking around. Even last week she interrupted a TV interview with her teammate Masha Vadeeva. Plus, we need someone who might just dunk for added entertainment.

Liz Cambage – Australia

Did we say dunk, entertain and World class? So let's get this straight, we now must refer to what happened in Tenerife last year as the FIBA Women's Basketball Cambage World Cup. She was sensational and I like the fact that she is continually stirring things up off the court as well. We have too few big personalities and when the talent actually matches this, then just about all can be forgiven,  5,000 Spaniards whistling and booing in that Semi-Final as she walked to the bench and held up the Australia part of her journey while cupping her ear and all the other histrionics were a delight. It was total pantomime villain, but one glance up at the scoreboard and she was the one turning the lights off on Spain's hopes. I had heard so much about Cambage before the tournament. I spent around 10 minutes chatting to her alone prior to it starting. I liked the way she spoke - especially about young players and also the encouragement she had for female athletes, kids trying to dunk or be different, as well as her warm words for Ezi Magbegor. 'Not everyone's cup of tea' as a Brit like me like say, but I am won over. Basketball needs its biggest stars.

Summary

No player from Africa was a pity, but perhaps not a surprise. I left Maya Moore out as she is not playing which made it slightly easier and other than that, some of my favorite players didn’t make the cut and I mean people like Courtney Vandersloot, Sonja Petrovic, Maria Vadeeva and Astou Ndour as examples – although at the back of my mind, I was probably just happy I would see most of them in the flesh at the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2019 and/or EuroLeague Women Final Four! There was also the old problem of an absolute desert when it comes to choice for playmakers - something I have warned about in previous columns during these past years. But let's end the high note of this debate around my roster and who you might pick. Let me know via @Basketmedia365 on twitter or Basketmedia365 on FB.

Paul Nilsen

FIBA

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Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.