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Best of 2023: Fenerbahçe’s EuroLeague Women dominance headlines year in international women’s basketball

2023 confirmed that women’s basketball is a global game, from Fenerbahçe Algöz Holding winning the EuroLeague Women championship to WNBA players thriving in the WCBA and WNBL.

Fenerbahce Alagoz Holding become Europe’s best women’s basketball team
Breanna Stewart accepts the MVP award as Fenerbahçe celebrates its victory in the 2023 FIBA EuroLeague Women final.
Photo by Sezgin Pancar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Olympic Games in Paris will steal most international women’s basketball storylines in 2024. In 2023, however, the story was Fenerbahçe Algöz Holding, as the Turkish club won its first EuroLeague Women championship in April. Here’s a look back at Fenerbahçe’s triumph and other global happenings in the women’s game.

Fenerbahçe announces EuroLeague Women dominance

Fenerbahçe’s Emma Meesseman and Breanna Stewart defend Schio’s Astou Ndour during the 2023 EuroLeague Women semi-final match.
Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images

Fenerbahçe Algöz Holding entered the EuroLeague Women postseason favored to win the club’s first championship. Fenerbahçe, Beretta Famila Schio, CBK Mersin and ZVVZ USK Praha advanced to the Final Four, before Fenerbahçe—blessed with an excess of WNBA talent in Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Satou Sabally and Kayla McBride—defeated Mersin to win it all. Stewart dropped a EuroLeague Women-record 35 points in the final, winning MVP honors with, according to our expert Eric Nemchock, “one of the most statistically impressive individual performance in EuroLeague Women history.”

Although Stewart is not suiting up for the defending champions for the 2023-24 EuroLeague Women season, Fenerbahçe retained their favored status, led by Meeseman, McBride and new addition Natasha Howard. Although tested by Casademont Zaragoza in Week 3, Fener remained undefeated until Week 9 when LDLC ASVEL Féminin, elevated by the arrivals of Gabby Williams, Marine Johannès and Stephanie Dolson, scored the upset. Players familiar to NCAAW and WNBA who have turned in strong efforts for their EuroLeague Women clubs through the competition’s first 10 weeks include Ezi Magbegor for Praha, Arella Guirantes for Schio, Marina Mabrey for Mersin and Brittney Sykes for BC Polkowice.

WNBA players star in WNBL and WCBA

WNBL Rd 2 - Sydney Flames v Melbourne Boomers
Naz Hillmon takes the ball to the hoop for the WNBL’s Melbourne Boomers.
Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Since the 2023 WNBA season ended, a number of players have taken their talents to China and the WCBA for the first time since the league suspended play in early 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. W favorites, such as Alyssa Thomas and Satou Sabally, have been showing out for Chinese fans.

Other WNBA players have opted to go Down Under, as Australia’s WNBL remains a popular venue for players to develop their games during the offseason. Jordin Canada and Aari McDonald, among others, have been getting buckets for their WNBL squads.

And be sure to catch Canada, McDonald and your other WNBA faves playing in the WNBL on the WNBA App, which is now streaming WNBL games for free.

First qualifiers for EuroBasket Women 2025

Belgium v Poland - FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers
In defeating Belgium, Poland and Becky Massey scored the most surprising upset in the first EuroBasket Women 2025 qualification window.
Photo by Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

A look back at 2023 includes a look ahead to 2025? That’s the case with EuroBasket Women qualifiers, as the first qualification window for the 2025 competition took place in November. 36 contending teams from the continent played two qualifying games, with upsets by Luxembourg and Poland, which has been boosted by former WNBA player Stephanie Mavunga, presaging the excitement to come. The next window of qualifiers will be held in February 2024.

Montenegro, coached by Jelena Škerović and featuring former Oklahoma State star Natasha Mack, is in first place in Group H, on track to earn one of 16 spots in the continental competition.

Team USA looks toward 2024

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 05 Women’s - USA Women’s National Team at Tennessee
Will Jackie Young be among the 12 players selected for the 2024 Olympic team?
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2023 was a quiet year for Team USA, sandwiched between a 2022 that saw the Americans win the FIBA Women’s World Cup and a 2024 expected to feature an eighth-straight Olympic gold medal.

Under head coach Cheryl Reeve, Team USA did begin their preparations for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, taking on Duke and Tennessee in a pair of exhibition games in November. The US also earned the right to defend their 2020 3x3 basketball gold medal, as a number of players suited up for the red, white and blue in a series of qualifying tournaments to punch the Americans’ ticket to the Olympics.