Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul is looking to become the first-ever Turkish team to lift the Eurocup trophy. Galatasaray has been really strong at home, losing just once in 11 games, and won all three series on points differential. Bringing in experienced players at the beginning of the season has paid off really well for the Turkish powerhouse. One of them was Stephane Lasme, who has been chosen to the All-Eurocup second team this season. Born in Gabon, Lasme has won domestic titles in three different countries - Serbia, Israel and Greece -, been chosen the 2012-13 Euroleague Best Defender and named to the 2013-14 All-Euroleague second team with Panathinaikos Athens. This is Lasme's first shot at winning a continental trophy and he has played a key veteran role for Galatasaray, averaging 11.1 points on excellent shooting percentages (64.1% 2FG, 83.1% FT), 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Lasme believes that hard work, not extra excitement, will make Galatasaray go all the way, as he told Eurocupbasketball.com in this interview. "Everybody wants it really bad but who doesn't? I am sure that Strasbourg players want it as bad as we want it," Lasme told Eurocupbasketball.com. "I think we have to focus on our work and what we need to do to get it."
Hello, Steph, and congratulations on making it to the Eurocup Finals. How hard has it been for your team to reach this far?
"We have been through a lot of stuff this season. I guess I can say it was pretty tough for everybody but we stayed together as a team as the season went on, and that is what got us here so far."
Of course, your most critical moment was the semifinal against Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas. How difficult was to overcome that situation and what allowed you to do it?
"Gran Canaria is a very good team and we had a lot of mismatch problems with them. We had to adjust a lot during the series. Of course, it was difficult to play in there, with their fans and all that stuff. It is hard to win over there. I think Coach had the perfect scheme and we applied whatever they told us to do on the court. It worked well for us but it took a little but of luck to win the series by one point. Sometimes you also need to be a little bit lucky."
You were one of the many experienced players Galatasaray brought in at the beginning of the season. How important has that experience been for you guys to get so far in the Eurocup?
"I think Coach did a good job in the off-season taking the right veterans to keep the team together. We have a very short rotation, so it was good for him to have a little older team, with players who do what they are supposed to do. All credit to Coach Ataman."
This is your first Eurocup season after five seasons in the Euroleague. How have you found the competition until now? What did you like about it?
"The Eurocup is a different style of basketball. It is kind of like this all over Europe - every league has its own style. I like the Eurocup and I got to visit a whole bunch of different, new cities. Clearly, everybody knows that the Euroleague is a higher level but the Eurocup is not bad at all. You get to compete against pretty talented guys and pretty promising young talents."
You will face Strasbourg in the finals. What do you like about their team and which are their strong points as a team?
"I know Mardy Collins from playing against him before and I watched some games during the season. They are a pretty tough team and it is not going to be easy for us if we are going to win it. I hope that the team is ready for two very tough games."
Galatasaray will play Game 2 at home. You have been really strong in front of your fans until now, winning by big margins. What has allowed you to be almost unbeatable at Abdi Ipekci?
"Clearly the fans. Galatasaray has some of the best fans in the world, everybody knows this, and to win in our place is pretty challenging. I also know that Strasbourg won more games away than at home during the last few weeks. You cannot underestimate them - they know what they are doing and we have to be prepared even if we have the home court advantage."
It will be the last home-and-away series in the Eurocup, too. How different are these games from regular games? Does it take an extra effort, physically and mentally, to play this kind of games?
"It is true, playoffs is a different type of basketball, more of a mind game and you have to be prepared. Also, to be honest, I was not aware of the format. I didn't know about the two-game, point-differential format until it started. It was different for me but I like it."
Galatasaray is the first Turkish team to make it to the Eurocup Finals. This is a chance to make history for everyone in the team. Is there a lot of anticipation about this game in Istanbul, from your own interaction with fans and staff?
"You can feel the excitement around the team, everybody want us to win. But personally I, and I hope the rest of the team, cannot focus on that too much. You don't want to have too high expectations and go into the game with too much of it, because it could swing the wrong way. The team did a good job keeping all those expectations away from us."
None of you have ever won a continental title before. Does that motivate you even more to go all the way with Galatasaray?
"Definitely, definitely. Everybody wants it really bad but who doesn't? I am sure that Strasbourg players want it as bad as we want it. I think we have to focus on our work and what we need to do to get it. I would be very exciting to win the Eurocup but I try not to think too much about that, just about what we are supposed to do to get it."
If you win, Galatasaray would be in the Euroleague, playing 30 games against the best teams in Europe. How much are you looking forward to that, taking Galatasaray to the very elite of European basketball?
"Personally, I always thought that Galatasaray is a Euroleague club. It has always been in the Euroleague as far as I can remember, as far as I remember being in the Euroleague. If we manage to win it, I think Galatasaray will just get what it deserves: being at the level it is supposed to be at."