Mike Smith is a 26 year old 198cm guard from Vandalia, Missouri that is playing his first season for Liege Basket (Belgium-Ethias League). Last season after getting signed by Iowa of the D-league, he suffered an injury that sidelined him for the whole season. In 2011-2012 as a rookie he played the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven playing 34 games: 8.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 41.6%, 3PT: 37.0%, FT: 85.4%. He played at E. Tennessee from 2007-2011. In his senior year, he played 35 games: 17.9ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 78.9%. In the summer 2011, he took part at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft): 3 games: 10.0ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.7apg, 1.3spg, 1.0bpg. He was a A-Sun Tournament Winner -09, 10, and All-A-Sun Player of the Year -11. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Mike thanks for talking to German Hoops again. You are playing in Belgium this season for Liege. After playing in Germany as a rookie for Bremerhaven, you were in the States last season and couldn´t play in the D-league due to an injury. Did you miss Europe in the year in the States?
I missed the game of basketball in general, getting injured in training camp last season was definitely a setback in my career. Everything happens for a reason though and I am in a good situation here at Liege to kickstart my career back up.
You didn´t find a team right away last summer as the basketball market continues to get harder and harder to crack each summer. Did you ever lose faith that you might not find a team this season?
I knew it would be tough to find a team for this season after being injured, but it only takes one team to like you and I’m thankful that Liege has given me this opportunity.
Did you ever consider playing in the D-league again or possibly some other leagues in the States or even Canada in the PBL league?
I got picked up early in June by Liege so I didn’t take any other leagues in the states into consideration.
I remember that we did an interview last summer to help your chances and Belgium team Liege bit and signed you to a contract. Besides good work by your agent, what do you believe sold Liege on your abilities as a player?
I feel they liked my abilities to score, rebound, and defend. Overall it was a good situation for the team and myself.
Usually in Belgium each team has at least one very good American or more and the rest players from Belgium. Liege has lesser known Americans this season, but have a solid record at 5-4. What has been the secret of the success so far? Does team chemistry sometimes outweigh individual talent?
Our secret to success has been a total team effort. We try to take a lot of pride in playing defense and getting stops. I think on any team that chemistry outweighs individual talent but with that being said I feel we still have great players on this team.
Currently you are the top scorer of Liege. When you stepped on the court at the first practice and saw the talent that you had, did you think that being a player that takes more responsibility than others might be a role you would take on?
I don’t think it was taking responsibility, I just knew if I played at the level that I am capable of playing I would be a good asset for this team. I just want to do what it takes for this team to win!
What is your early impression of the Belgium league? How would you compare it to the Beko BBL? How are the styles and competition different?
I really like this league a lot. Its been great competition every night. The Ethias League compared to the BEKO BLL would definitely be the amount of teams in the league. I feel they are very familiar leagues, both style and competition wise.
You are rebounding very well, but your three point shooting is down. Is that area where you are focusing more on improving now?
I have always taken pride in being a great shooter and I’ve always shot the three point well, it’s still early in the season. Plenty of time to get my three point percentage up.
You scored 30 points against Kangoeroes in a 104-101 shoot out. Do your teammates see you now as the go to guy on the team?
To some degree yes, but at the same time we have five guys averaging double figures. Late in games I feel my teammates have confidence in me to get a bucket if we need one.
You guys lost to Spirou 97-70 recently that has very good players like ex Euroleague player Demond Mallett. What is the main focus for Liege in every game against more talented teams so that they can have a chance to win? How much does heart and effort play a big role for a team like Liege?
If you don’t bring heart and effort to any game you play you shouldn’t be playing. I feel we can beat any team in this league. Thats why you play the game.
Usually it is the Americans that carry a team on European teams and Liege has two other Americans Chris Ferguson and Kenneth Simms that both played at the NAIA level. The yhave delieved solid stats this season. Has your strong play taken some of the pressure of them being able to possibly play more relaxed?
Kenneth and Chris are both great players, both could of easily played Division 1. We all have confidence in each other and our coach is great at getting his players to play relaxed.
What has been your impression of big man Ioannis Iarochevitch. He is a Belgium national player. Is he the future of Belgium basketball?
Ioannis is a great player. He can shoot the three, post up, take you off the dribble and rebound. Does a lot of good things on the court to help our team. I definitely see him as the future of Belgium basketball.
In Bremerhaven you had German Doug Spradley as head coach and in Belgium you have Italian Fulvio Bastianini. What has it been playing for him and what have you been able to learn from him so far?
Coach Fulvio does a great job of getting the best out of his players. Gives his players complete confidence in their abilities. I have learned a lot from him. Excited to play for him here at Liege.
How do you like living in the Benelux region and Liege? You are very close to Germany and Holland.
I love the city of Liege, it is a very nice city.
Have you followed your ex team Eisbaeren Bremerhaven? They have had a very rough start to the season.
I have checked on them a couple times. Hope they can get it turned around.
There are only two players left on Bremerhaven from when you played there with Anthony Smith and young German Jonathan Malou. What is your memory of Malou on the court and how much potential does he have?
From what I remember from Jonathan was he was a very strong physical player. Had a great work ethic. If he continues to put the work in I think he has great opportunity to be a great player.
Have you discovered the famous Liege waffle yet or the atmosphere at Standard Liege soccer games?
I have got to experience both! Both are great!!
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Thanks Mike for the chat.