It was no surprise that Meesseman returned to the Mystics, but the short deal is noteworthy for a franchise building-block who has played all six years of her WNBA career in Washington. Still, designating Meesseman as a core player would give the Mystics exclusive negotiating rights with her.
“She wanted to take stock of everything, where she is with her career and everything else at the end of the season, and we would still have the right to ‘core’ her then if we wanted to,” Washington Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said in a phone interview Monday. “But she just wants to kind of figure it all out. … She wants to see where her life is at the end of this year with Olympics and us, everything else, and just kind of sort it out.”
Meesseman, 26, is playing in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg and could not immediately be reached.
The Belgian national averaged 13.1 points and 4.2 rebounds during the regular season last year and was the second-leading scorer for Washington despite missing 11 games because of commitments to the Belgian national team. In the playoffs, the 6-foot-4 forward led Washington at 19.3 points (shooting 58.2 percent from the field and 58.1 percent from the three-point line) and 5.6 rebounds per game, often going up against taller and more physical opponents.
“Emma re-signing is a huge step for our team,” Thibault said in a statement. “Having one of the top players in the world back for the upcoming season gives us a lot of options in how we play. It’s a great feeling for a coach to have a Finals MVP and a League MVP in Elena Delle Donne lining up opposite each other on the court.”
Meesseman’s importance to the Mystics is difficult to overstate. Before Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver signed with Washington in 2017, Meesseman was Thibault’s original franchise player. Quiet and low-key off the court, Meesseman devastated opponents with her talent and quickly became a fan favorite, earning her lone WNBA all-star nod in 2015.
On the court, her contributions to the Mystics are easily measurable. She missed the team’s first run to the WNBA Finals in 2018 while sitting out the year because of burnout — Meesseman plays overseas like most WNBA players during the offseason but also has the added pressure of being the best player on the Belgian national team — and the Seattle Storm swept Washington. Last year, she gave the Mystics the option to put three forwards on the floor at once, all of whom can shoot three-pointers.
After Meesseman fully returned to the lineup last year, the Mystics went 17-3 to end the regular season and averaged 92.2 points in those games.
“D.C. is my home away from home, so I am so happy to be back with the team and organization,” Meesseman said in a statement.