With 8.2 seconds left in last weekend’s game against the Phoenix Mercury, Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman stood outside the lane as teammate Krystal Thomas shot two free throws with the Mystics up three.
If Thomas made one, it would have essentially iced the game. But she missed the first free throw. Then the second one clanged off the rim. But before any Mercury player could corral the ball, Meesseman swooped into the lane and grabbed the rebound. She passed to guard Kristi Toliver, who was fouled and made the ensuing two free throws to seal an 85-80 victory .
Not only was Meesseman’s rebound crucial to Washington’s win, but she added 15 points — behind Toliver, who scored 20, and forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who scored 17.
Meesseman has scored in double digits in nine consecutive games, including a career-high 30 points against the Atlanta Dream on July 30.
Forward Elena Delle Donne (18.8 points per game) will be sidelined for another week or two after surgery early this month to repair a torn ligament in her left thumb, and guard Tayler Hill (13.3 ppg) is out for the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“The maturity of Emma right now is starting to show because she’s asking for the ball in big moments,” Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said. “Emma stepping out and shooting threes, she would have never done that a year ago if she had missed shots earlier in the game. She would have rather passed.”
Meesseman, who has raised her scoring average to 13.5 points after a slow start to the WNBA season caused in part by overseas commitments, agreed with her coach’s assessment and credited him with changing her approach.
“He’s the one always telling me or yelling that I have to shoot the ball when I’m open,” Meesseman said. “I cannot say anymore that I’m still learning because it’s my fifth year already, so I have to take my responsibility.”
Meesseman, 24, isn’t new to being a scoring option. She has averaged double figures in each of the past four seasons, including a career-high 15.2 in 2016, when she led the WNBA in three-point percentage (44.8) and was an all-star for the first time.
Guard Ivory Latta, Meesseman’s teammate for the past five seasons, has witnessed the growth.
“She’s always working on her game,” Latta said. “She’s playing with a great team overseas and great players, and she comes back here and does some great things.”
Playing overseas has helped Meesseman, though she was stretched by its demands at the start of this WNBA season.
She missed training camp while winning the Russian Premier League championship with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Then, after joining the Mystics for their first four games — during which she averaged a modest 6.7 points — she missed their next 11 while playing with the Belgian national team in the EuroBasket women’s tournament.
It delayed her adjustment to her prominent new WNBA teammates, Delle Donne and Toliver.
“It’s still a new team, so I can’t just come in and know everybody and know how they play,” Meesseman said. “So it took me some time to adjust to it and know that I have to play my own basketball, like always.”
Nonetheless, playing abroad also provided a confidence boost. She was one of the best players, as well as one of the most experienced, with both UMMC Ekaterinburg and Belgium, so she was thrust into a leadership role. She had to communicate more. She had to set an example. And she had to score when she was needed.
“That’s where I saw that I cannot do that,” Meesseman said. “I can’t pass up open shots.”