Nastja Claessens makes her debut on Thursday in Leuven with the Belgian Cats.
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Nastja Claessens makes her debut on Thursday in Leuven with the Belgian Cats. © VDB

National coach Rachid Meziane of the Belgian Cats released the selection of the twelve Belgian Cats for Thursday’s European Championship qualifier (8:30 PM) against North Macedonia. The 17-year-old top talent Nastja Claessens, daughter of ex-Belgian Cat Irina Medvedeva, celebrates her debut with the Belgian Cats. Claessens plays for Waregem. “After the youth selections at the Young Cats, this is a special moment,” said Nastja Claessens.

Patrick Ceulemans

No Julie Allemand in the selection of the Belgian Cats. At the beginning of this week, in isolation in Leuven, it became clear that the guard of ASVEL Villeurbanne and Chicago Sky had to drop out with a foot injury. Allemand now travels back to her club where she will continue the rehabilitation. Nastja Claessens is in the selection of national coach Rachid Meziane, who is also making his debut. The 17-year-old talent was already there in November last year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but was not on the match sheet then. Claessens will therefore be in action for the Belgian Cats for the first time on Thursday evening (8.30 pm, Sportoase Leuven). She plays in the Top Division Women (first division women) at Waregem where her dad Fre Claessens is the coach. There she has a brilliant average of no less than 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

After Billie and Becky Massey, Maxuele Lisowa and Ine Joris, Claessens is the fourth Young Cat of the Nex Gen to make it to the selection of the Belgian Cats in the past two years. The three dropouts are Heleen Nauwelaers (Kangaroes Mechelen), Morgane Armant (Liège Panthers) and Serena-Lynn Geldof (Zaragoza).

2 out of 2 this week

The Belgian Cats will play two important European Championship qualification matches this week in Leuven. Thursday against North Macedonia and Sunday against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Last year, Emma Meesseman and co. with a narrow defeat in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a big win in Kortrijk against Germany. A two out of two is therefore in order this week to stay on the road for the 2023 European Championships in Israel/Tel Aviv and Slovenia/Ljubljana (June 15-25).

The Cats must qualify for the European Championship if they want to stay on track for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The group winners of the ten groups are directly qualified for the European Championship in 2023. The four best runners-up of the eight groups of four also go to the European Championship. The Belgian Cats are going for a fourth consecutive European Championship.

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