2018 FIBA World Cup Group C Primer
The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup tips off on Sept. 22. Get to know a little bit about the teams in Group C, including Belgium, Japan, Puerto Rico and Spain.
Ranked No. 28 in the world and No. 14 in Europe, Belgium qualified for its first international major after winning a historic bronze medal at the 2017 European Championships, which marked the nation’s first medal stand appearance ever at the event.
The Belgium squad finished with a 5-1 record at the 2017 European Championship, falling only to eventual gold medalist Spain in the semifinals.
Emma Meeseman, a 6-foot-4 center who played five seasons for the Washington Mystics before taking the 2018 season off to rest and train for the World Cup, was named to the 2017 All-Star Five after a standout tournament. She averaged team-highs of 17.5 ppg., 7.2 rpg. and 1.7 bpg., while adding 2.8 apg., in leading her team to bronze.
Selected No. 19 by the Mystics in 2013, Meeseman averaged 10.9 ppg. and 5.4 rpg. during her five years in the WNBA, including 14.1 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. in 2017. Additionally, Meeseman played for two years alongside Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi for UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Also starring for Belgium in 2017 was veteran Anne Wauters, a 6-4 center who played nine seasons for five teams in the WNBA, beginning in 2000 with the Cleveland Rockers, and her final season came in 2016 with the Las Angeles Sparks. Wauters averaged 9.9 ppg. and 5.0 rpg. during her career and her most productive season was in 2008 with San Antonio, when she started 31 of 32 games played and averaged 14.7 ppg. and 7.5 rpg.
At the 2017 European Championship Wauters scored at a clip of 13.3 ppg. and pulled down 5.7 rpg.
Belgium’s third scoring threat in 2017 was 5-foot-10 guard Kim Mestdagh, who averaged 14.5 ppg. and 3.3 apg.
Ranked No. 13 in the world and No. 3 in Asia, Japan clinched its World Cup berth by claiming the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship after edging Australia 74-73 in the gold medal game. Japan was led in the final contest by 5-foot-8 shooting guard Saki Mizushima, who went 7-of-9 from 3-point and finished with 19 points, her best output of the tournament.
A 12-time FIBA World Cup and three-time Olympic participant, Japan’s best finish in the combined events was a silver medal at the 1975 World Cup. More recently, the Asian squad finished 14th at the 2014 World Cup and eighth at the 2016 Olympics.
The USA has faced Japan three times in World Cup play, claiming victories in 1979 and 1998 and dropped a 73-71 contest in 1975. The USA last played Japan at the 2016 Olympics when the U.S. squad earned a 110-64 victory.
Look for Japan to be led by 5-foot-7 guard Manami Fujioka and 5-foot-10 forward Moeko Nagaoka, both of whom were 2017 Asia Championship All-Star Five selections. Fujioka averaged 11.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg. and 8.2 apg. at the 2017 event, and Nagaoka led Japan with 13.7 ppg. Additionally, 6-foot-3 forward Ramu Tokashiki, who turned in MVP performances at the 2013 and 2015 Asia Championships, but didn’t suit up for Japan at the 2017 Asia Championship, is on Japan’s list of 16 finalists for its World Cup squad. She produced 17.0 ppg. and 6.3 rpg. at the 2016 Olympics and 11.3 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. at the 2014 World Cup.
Ranked No. 22 in the world and No. 6 in the Americas zone, Puerto Rico earned the bronze medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup to claim its first entry to a FIBA World Cup. Puerto Rico also has never qualified for an Olympic Games.
Led by Allison Gibson, a 6-foot-3 guard, Puerto Rico finished with a 4-2 record at the 2017 AmeriCup, losing to eventual gold medalist Canada 75-59 and silver medalist Argentina 48-44.
Gibson averaged a team-high of 13.0 ppg. Puerto Rico also was aided by 5-foot-5 guard Michelle Gonzalez, who was the team’s second-leading scorer with 8.7 ppg.
Spain is ranked No. 2 in the world and No. 1 in Europe and claimed the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, its first Olympic medal of any color. The Europeans also claimed the 2014 World Cup silver medal and earned bronze at the 2010 World Cup.
As World Cup hosts, Spain will be a formidable opponent to all comers. Led by longtime veterans Laia Palau and Alba Torrens, both of whom have announced their retirement following the World Cup, Spain has pared its pool to 16 athletes.
The 5-foot-10 guard, 38-year-old Palau dished out 3.5 apg. at the 2017 European Championship and first played for Spain on the world stage at the 1997 U19 World Cup. She has since competed in the past four World Cups and the 2008 and 2016 Olympics.
Torrens, a 6-foot-3 guard who plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, was named MVP of the 2017 European Championship after averaging 17.8 ppg., 6.3 rpg. and 3.3 apg. She first stepped onto the international stage at a FIBA event at the 2007 U19 World Cup, where Spain finished fourth, and the following year competed for her country at the Beijing Olympics. Torrens is a two-time Olympic and two-time World Cup participant.
Two other players to watch for will be a pair of shooting guards, 5-foot-8 Anna Cruz and 5-foot-11 Marta Xargay.
The 31-year-old Cruz, who played alongside Angel McCoughtry and Nneka Ogwumike for Dynamo Kursk, averaged 8.0 ppg. and 3.2 apg. at the 2017 European Championships. After first playing for Spain on the world stage at the 2005 U19 World Cup, competed at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups and 2008 and 2016 Olympic Games.
Xargay, who is 27, posted 11.2 ppg. at the 2017 European Championship, saw her first FIBA world competition as a member of the 2009 Spain U19 World Cup Team. Since then, she earned spots on Spain’s 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic teams.
The USA will be in the hunt to earn a 10th World Cup gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup Sept. 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain. Follow along on the team’s journey on usab.com and through USA Basketball’s social media as the team goes for gold.