Stephane is a 35 year old 203 forward from Gabon, Africa playing his 11th professional season and first with Unics Kazan (Russia-VTB). He has had a long and fruitful career having played in the NBA with Golden State and Miami and had a stellar career at Umas(NCAA) from 2003-2007 and as a senior played 33 games averaging 13.5ppg, RebA10-1(9.5rpg), BlocksNCAA-2(5.1bpg), FGPA10-2(61.1%), FT: 62.2%: Third player in NCAA history to record four triple-doubles in a single season (2006-07), joining Jason Kidd (Cal, 1993-94) and Michael Anderson (Drexel, 1985-86). Tied for 18th in NCAA history for career blocks (399), passing Marcus Camby as UMass all-time career leader. Finished second in career field-goal percentage at UMass (.595). In Europe he has played in countries like Serbia, Israel, Spain, Greece and Turkey. He played two seasons with top Euroleague team Panathinaikos Athens (Greece-A1) and played 122 Euroleague games. He has won 9 professional titles in Serbia, Israel, Greece, and Turkey including the Eurocup. He spoke to German Hoops before the Eurocup do or die game in Munich against FC Bayern Munich.
Steph thanks for talking to German Hoops. You’re preparing for a do or die Eurocup game in Munich. How many of these type of games have you had in the NCAA and as a professional?
I had these type games many times and actually they happen at least once every season. I try not to focus on how difficult the situation is, but just give 100% on the court.
Congrats on the big 80-73 win at home against FC Bayern Munich. It was a tale of two halves. Munich controlled the first half and Unics fought back in the second half and won. Did you learn anything new about your team in the second half?
We have a new team and it is still a learning process. We are still learning how to play together on the court and the best way to learn is when you are in a difficult situation. We have guys that have been in this position before and for the young guys it is a very good learning experience.
Unics Kazan have the momentum, but need to win on the road in Munich. How confident are you that you will win and what will be key for getting the victory?
I am confident that we can win in Munich. We were a bit nervous in the first game and in the second game until halftime. I feel we showed in the second half in Kazan that we know how to act the right way on the court. The big key for both teams in game three will be who plays harder. I don´t think that it will have to do so much with tactics, but more which team has the most energy and who leaves it all on the floor.
Over the years you have played in Germany quite a few times and I remember a tight big 76-73 win against Bamberg with Panathinaikos where you steered 15 points and nine rebounds. What memories have you had overall playing against German teams?
What I always remember about playing German teams is that they all play physical. The BBL is a physical league with a lot of hitting bodies. It is a league where it has to do more with physicality and athleticism.
Congrats on an excellent long professional career and your still going strong at age 35. In February 2003 you were in Boston at Emmanuel College and now it´s 2018 and the rest is history. If someone had told you in 2003 where you would be in 2018 what would you have thought?
In 2003 when I was in Boston I was in a very tough situation. Not only did I not think I could play at the professional level, but also not at the college level. I never thought that my life could go the way it has gone. I was thinking I would have a 9-5 job in the States.
You played in the NBA, in the Euroleague for years and now in the VTB at age 35. Was getting the challenge to play VTB one of your biggest reasons why you signed with Unics Kazan (Russia-VTB)?
First off I have played in many leagues in the world, but had never played in the VTB. I felt it would be very challenging for my game. Another big reason is that my wife is Russian. We wanted our two kids to experience this side of the culture. My kids speak Russian and we felt it would be good for them to experience it. Also I knew the coach who I had also played for in Greece.
Unics is playing a superb season in the VTB and are currently the best team. How good are the chances when healthy that you might give CSKA a good run for the title? You have won titles in Serbia, Israel, Greece and the Eurocup. You must know that feeling when a team has the championship genes.
I feel that there is a chance to win the VTB league. I think the smaller teams have a better chance with the new format where there are just two games to win to get the title. It is more of a disadvantage for the big teams like CSKA, Khimki and Lokomotive. Overall it will still be tough for us, because we are a relatively new team. I would say we have a small chance to win.
You have played against so many talented guys in the last 15 years, but where does a guy like Kyle Hines rate with the best big men that you have battled in your career?
Kyle is pretty high on my list. What he has done in his career and been so consistent at is great. I really appreciate him. He always brings out the absolute best in me. He is up there with the best bigs in Europe. For me he is in the top 3 bigs in Europe. He is one of the big talents in Europe.
Even if he has played in the NBA, have you been sort of a mentor for Maurice Ndour? Do you feel like he has developed further this season in Europe?
Maurice has had a chance to develop this season. It was different last season when he was in the G-League and played for a while with New York. The difference is that he got more minutes with us. You can only get better when you are playing. When he asks me questions, I try to help him to the best to my ability. He is a really good player and I feel that the sky is the limit for him.
You are putting up great stats in the Eurocup and VTB league. Do you feel like your getting better with age and do you feel like you could play at a high level until your 40?
That is one of my goals. I want to be able to play at the highest level until I reach 40. I feel that I can achieve this with my style of play and my body type. I always knew that I´m athletic and can run and down the floor with the best of them, but I also knew that in order to play a very long time, I also had to develop other parts of my game. That is what I have been doing every summer. I work on all aspects on my game and that has continued to help me play at my age. My goal is to play until I´m 42.
Last season you played with the Texas Legends (D-League) playing 19 games averaging 11.8ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.1apg, 1.0spg, Blocks-1(3.3bpg), FGP: 59.2%, 3PT: 41.9%, FT: 72.5%. The G-league is a league for young guys looking to make the NBA. What was it like for you being 34 and playing in the league again 6 years since playing with Maine and 9 years since being in the NBA?
The main reason why I returned to the States last season to play in the G-League was to see if I could run with the 19 and 20 year old kids. I wanted to test in that league how long I still have left. I felt that I did well last season. My main goal last season was to be able to play the way I wanted and just have fun and that happened. There is a lot less stress there than in Europe. I didn´t go there for the money because you earn little, but just to have fun and test my legs against the young guys. Another reason also was being able to play for my friend coach Bob Mccammon. We have run camps in Gabon in the past and he asked me if I wanted to play for him. I really liked playing for him.
You won the 2016 Eurocup with Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul (Turkey-BSL). What was so special about this team and it´s Eurocup run?
Galatasaray is a great organization and has a great fan base. We made history that season being the first Turkish team winning an international title with the Eurocup. I remember before the season telling the coach that I came here to win the Eurocup. He shared the same goal with me. Winning the Eurocup was my first big international title and it was a great feeling getting the MVP.
You won the Turkish cup in 2015 with Anadolu Efes Istanbul (Turkey-TBL). It seems like you have your special story with very team you have played with. What was it like playing with Dario Saric? He had just been drafted in the first round by the Orlando Magic. Three years later he is a very good NBA player. What do you remember about his development and did you know then that he could be such a good NBA player?
I remember that from the time that I met him that he was very special. What I remember most about him was how hard he worked every day. He never took off a play. I knew right away that he could be a very good player. Not only was he always fighting on the court on every play, but he had a very good skill set. The game he had for his size then was very rare.
You played with Panathinaikos Athens (Greece-A1) from 2012-2014 winning 4 titles, but never winning the Euroleague. Do memories of those two brutal 5 game series against Barcelona and CSKA Moscow pop up from time to time?
Yes I remember those series well. I´m still mad losing to Barcelona. That was my one real chance to make the Euroleague final 4. I remember everything from that series. Not only am I still mad that we lost, but my attitude towards the series then. I just didn´t care as much of reaching the final 4 then. I wish now that I had cared. My biggest achievement with Panathinaikos was beating Olympiakos back to back for the Greek titles. When I go back to Athens now, it already starts at the airport that everyone still knows me. Athens will always be my second home.
You have played for many well known clubs, but what did it mean to you playing two seasons for Panathinaikos Athens (Greece-A1)? What was your craziest story in those two years?
We used to always joke on game day that we had two games in one day. Of course the normal game at night, but the first game was getting to the game. There were 1000 fans in the lobby of the hotel and just fighting your way to the bus was like a game. It took a lot out of you. You were in full sweat going from your room to the bus and we hadn´t even reached the court yet. It was a real battle getting to the bus with the people grabbing and tearing at your clothes. This was the craziest memory I had. The love support from the fans was amazing. This fan love continued when we won the title with the fans following the bus.
You played with so many amazing players with Panathinaikos Athens (Greece-A1), but what did it mean battling Mike Batiste on a daily basis? Was Steph Lasme a better player after a season having to contend with a Batiste every day on the court?
I was definitely a better player after that season. He always brought out the best in me. Mike had so much knowledge about the European game especially reading it. I still talk to him to this day and keep telling him that he retired a lot to early. I wish he would of played a few more years. He taught me so much and I am so thankful for that. The most important thing that he taught me was reading the defender on the pick and roll. Mike watched so much film and always knew exactly what he had to do on the court. When I came to Panathinaikos, my game was about setting screens and relying on my athleticism for being successful and not so much about reading the game. Mike taught me how to read the game. He taught me in what direction to roll.
You played a season with Obradoiro CAB (Spain-ACB) after coming from the States again. How important was this season for your career as you would make your breakthrough the season after in Greece?
The important thing about going to Spain was just knowing that I could play again and getting to play again. Before I came back to Europe after being in the G-League I had broke my foot twice and had been home with my foot up. It was a tough time, but I came back and just needed a team where I could play and enjoy the game again. Playing in the ACB was great. Having the experience to play in the toughest league in Europe really helped my game. I was able to play against the best teams in Europe. With Obradoiro I could just play again. The coach didn´t focus so much on the pick and roll, but more on 1-1 play. I just played again and really enjoyed that season.
In the 2010-2011 season you had a lot of misfortune getting injured with the Maine Red Claws. You had been with the Boston Celtics. Did you kind of close the door on the NBA after this season?
I never thought about that having to get back to the NBA. My focus was always, if I was good enough for a team then that team would want me. I started a family at that point and there isn´t much money in the G-League. At that moment I knew that it was more important having money in my pocket for my family than continuing to chase the NBA dream. I learned in that last season in the G-League that every game is like a job interview and every player is focusing on themselves and there really isn´t any team concept. I wasn´t about bombing shots all night,but wanted to play team orientated. Going back to Europe then was the best decision.
You played with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2009-2010 season. How tough was that season being that the team after many years of wining the Premier league lost for the second time in three seasons. The team had so much talent, but was the chemistry missing?
We had a lot of talent that season and enough to win the title. I remember breaking my foot before the playoffs. I would like to say that the team missed me in the playoffs and would have had better chances to win with me. But actually there was a lot happening in the two weeks before the playoffs started. We just folded. The chemistry was lacking and guys were disappointed about the ending to the Euroleague season. We simply quit in the playoffs.
Everyone has their special Pini Gershon story. He is as eccentric as they get, but he is a basketball mind. How did you experience him as a young player?
He was a lot different to what I had ever seen before. He was definitely a fun coach to play for. He gave his players very much freedom. He was a very offensive minded coach which helped and hurt his team at that level. You need to have discipline to be successful at the highest level and he didn´t have it. He also had a different way of practicing. We practiced once a day. He just watched us. When I was with Partizan we practiced twice a day three hours each practice. I enjoyed Israel, but it was different.
You won your first professional title in Europe with BC Partizan Igokea Beograd (Serbia-A League). What was your wake up call to being in Europe for your first season where you knew that you were very far away from home?
My wake up call with Partizan was that it was like being in the army. We had no days off and we practiced twice a day three hours each practice. We practiced no matter what even in bad weather. It was a real shock for me. I had never been in a situation like that, but my body did get used to it. Nobody spoke English and in the first two months I got crazy in my apartment not knowing what to do. The only thing I could do was focus totally on basketball. Being away from home wasn´t difficult because I had already experienced that first time going to the States from Gabon to Umass.
You were drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2007 and played one game with them and 15 games with the Miami Heat. What kind of experience was the NBA for you? Did it teach you anything that would help you in your professional career?
The biggest lesson I learned in the NBA is that it is a business. Coming out of college and reaching the NBA, I was caught up in the dream stage too long. I saw that every decision is a business decision which made my mind turn 180 degrees. I had to learn to think like it was a business. I was lucky that teammates gave me tips and kept saying that to be successful you need to work on your game every day. I remember that when I was in the NBA, you learn so much in so little time. Everything moves so fast in the NBA and the lifestyle is a lot different. I had to learn on the fly. What was difficult was coming from college to the NBA. I came from Gabon and lived a sheltered life at Umass. I didn´t experience any real life at Umass because I was mostly on campus. I came from a sheltered environment and came to the NBA where there was so much freedom. I experienced life in a totally new way that I had never had before.
With the Miami Heat you had so many amazing teammates like Jason Williams, Alonso Mourning, Shaq, Dwayne Wade, Penny Hardaway of Shawn Marion. Was it difficult not being star struck at first?
I was star struck. I had come from Africa and suddenly I was teammates with these guys. I never thought I would be able to come so far. I remember watching them at home on TV and dreaming to stand next to them and now they were my teammates. It was a surprise coming to practice every mourning and guys like Shaq and Mourning knew my name. It was shocking having a conversation with a Jason Williams. I felt out of place at times.
You played at Umass from 2003-2007. You left as the school´s alltime shot blocker surpassing the great Marcus Camby. What did it mean for you to break that record and did you ever meet Camby over the years or get a congratulatory from him?
I have met Marcus Camby a few times over the years. I saw him last summer at Umass. People are always talking about me breaking his record. It was a great achievement for me. It was never my goal to break his record until it happened. It took me four years to do while he only played two seasons there before going to the NBA. I am sure he doesn´t like hearing that his record was broken. I hope that my record doesn´t get broken. We will see what happens.
You also were only one of three players in NCAA history to record four triple doubles and you had them with points, rebounds and blocks. Was a block for you at times as easy as it was for John Stockton getting an assist?
In college yes. By my senior year it was really easy for me to get a block. But I did work hard to be able to do that so well. I really worked on developing my body. When I came to Umass, I was a skinny kid. I started going into the weight room and all my work paid off. When I was a senior despite having put on weight, it felt easy to jump. I felt like I could get 7 blocks a game. That was the easiest time in my life blocking shots.
How important do you feel your overall defensive play was for your professional career? Where do you feel might your professional career gone had you been only a below average defender?
Playing defense came naturally to me and I never thought about where my career would have gone had I been a below average defender. I always felt like I had enough good skills in my game. My defense always overshadowed the rest of my game. I could always score, rebound and pass the ball well. It just happened to be that my defense and the ability to block shots was better than the rest. I still think that I could be a pretty good player minus my defense.
How did head coach Travis Ford give you that extra grooming and preparation for a professional career at Umass?
Coach Ford gave me a lot of confidence. Before he came in my junior year, I didn´t think that I could become a professional player. He was the first guy that told me I could be a professional player. He wanted me to be a complete player and told me just keep working hard on my game and all will come into place. I took that advice into my professional career.
Who won a one on one back in the day you or Gary Forbes?
Half and half. We played a lot of one on one. I f I saw him tomorrow we would play again. I would say that I won more games than him.
You played against so many great players in the NCAA, but who was the toughest guy that you battled that is in the NBA now?
The best team I ever played against was the 2004 NCAA champion team Uconn that had Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor. I remember my coach telling me that I would never see such a talented team like this again at the NCAA level. I think that Rudy Gay is the only guy left in the NBA now from that team. I remember that it was such a challenging game. We got smacked. I was so nervous that I didn´t even go to the table to check in, but just ran on the court. The toughest player I battled in the NCAA was Craig Smith form Boston College. He was all muscle. He was a monster and used to kill us on the court. We couldn´t do anything against him.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Lebron James
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Jordan is the best. He won 6 titles and Lebron has lost too many finals. If I were to play with Jordan, I would give him the ball every time. He would get you a bucket each time. I just don´t trust Lebron with the ball in tough times, but he is a very talented player.
What was the last movie that you saw? I predict Black Panther.
I actually watched the first 15 minutes of Black Panther and then turned it off. I didn´t like the start. I will watch it again. I got the point of the movie, but it just wasn´t for me. The last movie I watched was Mud Bound.
Thanks Steph for the chat.