Leslee Smith is a 28 year old 203cm forward from Humble, Texas that is going into his fourth professional season and first with the Iserlohn Kangaroos (Germany-ProB). He played the last two seasons with the Bristol Academy Flyers (United Kingdom-BBL) and two seasons ago played 34 games averaging 12.0ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.1apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 49.5%, 3PT: 23.8%, FT: 81.5% and last season played 30 games averaging 10.9ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.8apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 42.4%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 69.6%. He began his professional career in 2015 with Entretanto Meta La Salle Tarija (Bolivia-Libobasquet) and ten played with Olimpi Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague) playing14 games: Score-4(17.4ppg), Reb-2(12.0rpg), 1.9apg, Steals-2(2.4spg), Blocks-3(1.6bpg), FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 63.5%. He played college ball at SMU (NCAA) playing 25 games averaging 3.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.2apg. He then played a season at Seward County CC (JUCO) before finishing at Nebraska (NCAA) playing 30 games averaging 5.6ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 52.8%, FT: 62.7% and in his senior year played 17 games averaging 3.1ppg, 3.1rpg. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball earlier in the summer.
Leslee thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how have you been enjoying your summer?
I am currently in Dallas Texas and my summer has been going well so far thanks
Welcome to Germany. What do you know about the country and it´s basketball? Did you get some tips from your ex teammates at Nebraska(NCAA) Shavon Shields and Tai Webster?
I have not really done much research yet on Germany, but I do know Germany is one of the few countries that has a very high reputation in basketball. I have not spoken to either about their experiences in Germany yet.
After two solid seasons with the Bristol Academy Flyers (United Kingdom-BBL) you decided to move to Iserlohn that play in the German Pro B. You stated you have always wanted to play in Germany. What has fascinated you so much about playing in Germany?
Just the respect that Germany has in the basketball world somewhat draws me towards it along with history of pros produced there, and the level of competition.
It seems when looking at the English BBL and German Pro B that you have taken a step back in terms of the skill level that both possess. How do you justify that taking this step will be beneficial in your continuing development as a player?
Yes I think that it will be beneficial to my development by getting back to playing at a high level and being consistent.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a very versatile 203cm power forward. If you had to describe your game to a NBA player who would you choose?
The game has changed a lot and I’ve always had the versatility. I’d like to think myself as a Demarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins and all the things he can do on the court.
You have the length and physicality to defend centers but at the same time are dynamic and explosive to be able to play the quick game of Iserlohn. How confident are you that you will be able to play this style and be an impact player in the Pro B?
I think because of my physicality and my ability to move my feet with smaller players will be effective in on ball screening situations, and if there is a switch I am able to contain the basketball if faced with a guard.
You’re a guy that can fil up the stat sheet, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
I. think it’s my sleight of hand and my nimbleness that helps me get deflections and create turnovers for the opposing team
Your also a very good defender with solid block shot qualities. Are you a player that let´s his defense carry his offense or can your offense at times also influence how to perform on the defensive end?
I think with me it goes hand and hand, I try to generate energy however I can whether it’s by me making a big play on defense or offense.
After a rookie season that saw you play in Boliva and you played the last two seasons with the Bristol Academy Flyers where you averaged 12 and 7 and 10 and 7 stats. How important were these two years for your development as a player?
It was very important for me. It showed me how much more I need to improve individually, and also showed me my capabilities when I’m really locked in.
You had many great games with Bristol but where do you rank your 19 point, 21 rebound and 5 assist explosion in the win against Manchester?
I think I’d rank that game in my top five games there because of the fact that it was 1st game of our last back to back weekend games of the regular season and we needed to win both games to secure a playoff spot.
As a rookie you played first for Entretanto Meta La Salle Tarija (Bolivia-Libobasquet) and then for Olimpi Tbilisi (Georgia-Superleague) playing14 games: Score-4(17.4ppg), Reb-2(12.0rpg), 1.9apg, Steals-2(2.4spg), Blocks-3(1.6bpg), FGP: 46.8%, 3PT: 24.0%, FT: 63.5%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie where you knew that you were very far away form home?
That experience in South America was me deciding if I really wanted to play professionally and was testing my body. As for being far away, I’ve been away majority of my life playing high school and college since 2008 so it was pretty normal for me being away just a different cultural experience.
How important was it for you having Jeremy Bynum as a teammate as a rookie in Georgia? You came late to the team, but on the court needed no adjustment period. Do you feel like you would have survived had you not had that American guy by your side?
Jeremy Bynum was very helpful to me not just on the court but off also by schooling me on basketball overseas, showing me the ins and outs, things to avoid, and what to look for when joining a new team or in search of one. If he was not there I don’t think I would have lasted a month.
You started your NCAA career at SMU sitting out your first year and then playing 25 games averaging 3.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.2apg. What memories do you have of your freshman season and did you get anything positive out of this year?
My roommate at the time was Jeremiah Samarrippas. We had a lot of fun there and we are still good friends to this day.
After SMU, you took a step back and played with Seward County CC (JUCO). How tough was this year for you and did you have a chip growing on your shoulder?
Yes I decided to play JUCO after my second year at SMU. I made that decision because I wanted to challenge myself. The easy decision was to go to another division 1 school of similar caliber or even less. My thought process was go to JUCO, do what I have to do and if I get recruited by schools that wanted me when I left SMU that’s my destiny. However it was tough year because everyone in JUCO is trying to get a scholarship to play division 1 and me who played division 1 had that experience. At one point of the season I was benched because I wasn’t playing to my capabilities but I turned it around regained my starting spot and landed a scholarship at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln).
You finished at Nebraska(NCAA) playing two seasons there from 2013-2015 playing only 47 games. Despite not playing so much, how are you able to view these two seasons as positive in your maturation as a player?
Nebraska being one of if not the best conferences in NCAA basketball right now. Showed me that I can play with the best players once I work hard to continue to grow as a basketball player.
You had many memorable games with Nebraska(NCAA), but where does the 79-77 win against Michigan State your senior year rank playing the second most minutes of your senior year scoring 7 points and getting 7 rebounds?
It was probably the best moment for me individually. I was coming of ACL repair and my minutes were still limited. However our starting big man got ejected out of the game within the first 5 minutes in the first half and I was the only one left that played the position. So I had to step up and be solid for us and did whatever it took to help my team win the game.
How important was it having a guy like Shavon Shields for your game. What memories do you remember from your battles in practice?
Shavon Shields was one of our leaders on the team and was very competitive. Defending guys like him and Terran Petteway really helped me defensively when matching up to smaller guards. However when I defend him on the switch I made it tough as possible for him to score and likewise when he had to defend me on the block
How did head coach Tim Miles give you that extra push grooming and preparing you best for a professional basketball career?
He was always tough on me because he knew my potential and that I was a game changer although I wasn´t the leading scorer or rebounder. He knew I had a good understanding of the game and it was the things I did like hustle plays, getting an important rebound , taking a charge or even making a big shot. Those things he knew I was capable of so he was always hard on me.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Shavon Shields?
You played against so many incredible players in the NCAA in the last five years. Who was the toughest player you battled that is in the NBA?
There was so many good players that I competed against while at Nebraska but the one that stands out to me is Noah Vonleh who is currently playing for the Portland Trailblazers. He was the toughest!
How does a summer work out day look like for you in 2018? What type of drills do you do to help develop your shot further? You have stated that swimming is a very important aspect for your preparations.
I really just get in the gym and get reps up at further distances building the strength and working on the accuracy. The reason I like swimming because it’s a tough workout with little to no impact but really gets your cardiovascular going, along with building core strength.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick old or new?
Micheal Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate about who is better Lebron or Jordan? As a player and stats Lebron owned him, but Jordan has 6 rings?
I think that they are two different players that brings their own flare to the game. Micheal Jordan was a pure scorer but he was a game changer because he would make big plays on both ends of the floor. LeBron on the other hand is a stat filler and he does everything exceptionally well and it’s rare to find. He is not afraid of the big moment but he is a very smart player and is often criticized for making the right play and not what everyone else’s wants to see. My favorite of the two is Micheal Jordan. 6 rings do beat 3 but if the best was decided by rings then Jordan would not be considered the goat.
Tracy Mcgrady said that the Boston Celtics will be the Golden State Warriors of the future. Do you see that happening?
He made a good point because all their players were drafted or brought there by trade,very similar to what the Warriors did and they have a very good coach in Brad Stevens in contrast to when Marc Jackson was there prior to Steve Kerr. So it’s very possible if they continue to do what they are doing and not have any catastrophic injuries.
Deandre Ayton was the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. Do you feel that from sheer talent and experience that Luca Doncic should have been the real #1 draft pick?
If you base it off sheer talent and experience yes; because you know exactly what you are going to get from him. also there’s a history of players being successful or very helpful when having professional experience. However it’s been rare that a dominant big man have been passed up as a number 1 pick whether coming out of high school or college.
How did you follow the 2018 NBA Draft? How cool is it having two Germans being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers?
I didn’t really follow it as much this year, but I think that’s pretty cool and it gives credit to German basketball and the pros like Dirk Nowitzki who is one of my favorite players that made it possible for those two young men and others.
Lebron James makes amazing passes in every game, but really showcased it in a game this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. He already is like a point guard, but if he played just point guard and concentrated only on playmaking how many assists do you feel would he average per game?
Oh man ain’t no telling, he could have easily averaged about 12 this past season but his supporting cast weren’t giving him those assists on a nightly basis
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
Nah, the last movie I saw was dead pool 2. I love watching movies so I’ve seen plenty since the release of Black Panther but that was an amazing movie I must admit.
Thanks Leslee for the chat.