The Belgian Cats are in the final straight line for the European Championship. Two more weeks and then things start to get serious for coach Philip Mestdagh as they head to the Czech Republic. After this weekend the Cats will know exactly where they stand... and how far they are removed from the absolute top of Women's basketball as they'll face no other than Spain this weekend. And not once, but twice. The first time will be this Friday at 8:30pm and then Saturday they'll play the second game at 8pm. Both games will take place at De Schelp in Wevelgem. If you're unable to head over to the gym, no worries, both games can be followed by Live Stream with Maarten Weynants as commentator. It'll be the first minutes in the EC preparations for Ann Wauters (36) who only joined the team this past week. She participated in practice and also joined in the teambuilding trip at Nieuwpoort where she enthusiastically threw herself in a risky sailing trip at sea. "No one got seasick or was thrown overboard. Luckily. We all came back in one piece, just in time for the barbecue" laughs Ann Wauters on the phone after the long day. She had never done any sailing trip before even though she's no stranger to getting her feet wet. No one in the history of Belgian basketball, men and women combined, even comes close to her trophy case; an impressive list of awards and honors. Too long to name them all. Too many titles, cups and personal awards, plus the always humble Ann Wauters is too focused on the here and now to go over her past accomplishments. And the "here and now" currently means the Belgian Cats for her.
Are you glad that you will be able to be a part of it? Because that groin injury had me worried.
Not just you, I was worried too. And it was especially hard to have to play the last couple of games of the season with that injury (for Agü Spor Kayseri in Turkey.MW). The rest I've had these past couple of weeks was much needed. After that I worked hard with the physiotherapist and it has payed off. During practice with the Cats I felt good. I was able to practice without much pain and also afterwards it felt good. None the less the confrontations with Spain come very early for me.
Yes, Spain, what should we expect from those confrontations?
It will be an opportunity for us to compete with the European top, because believe me, Spain really is a top-team. Even though one of their star-players, the naturalized American Sancho Lyttle, won't be with the team yet. She's still playing for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA and will join the team right before the tournament tips-off. But even without her, Spain is an excellent team.
What are your personal ambitions in those back-to-back games against Spain?
Regain that 'basketball-feeling', regain my rhythm, get used to the team and hopefully... - and that's probably the most important - be able to play without any pain.
And after this weekend, one more game against the Netherlands and then it's time. Then you will leave for Prague.
Yes, not much time left. Luckily I noticed at practice that the team already has a good chemistry on the court. We have to build upon that and further get used to each other even more. The sloppyness needs to go. Definitely with myself. There's still a lot of room for growth. That's what it's all about now. We need to improve with each game we play.
Without you, the Cats already participated at a tournament in Latina, Italy. With varying success: they lost to their upcoming opponent at the EC, Russia and also lost from Italy. That doesn't sound all that good, but then again, against Italy the Cats were leading it by 11 points in the first half and they won against Hungary.
Yes, it was a positive tournament. Don't forget that we have a very young team. You shouldn't put too much pressure on them. We've learned a lot in Italy. We've learned that even though Emma Meesseman is our star-player we can't expect everything to come from her. We'll have to perform as a whole. Basketball is a team's game.
Yes, and it's a game you just can't get enough off. And you also seem to not get tired of living in Turkey.
No indeed, I'm remaining in Turkey for another season, even though I do change teams. I'm now joining Yakin Dogü Istanbul. That team had a dream-season. With Kayseri we played two finals against them: the Turkish Cup final and the Eurocup Final. Both times we lost. And they also took the title of the Turkish Championship. What I also like a lot about them is that Kim Mestdagh will also be joining the team. I'll be able to show her around. I'm really looking forward to that.
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