Best Defender Trophy winner: Stephane Lasme, Panathinaikos Athens

May 02, 2013 by Print
Best Defender Trophy winner: Stephane Lasme, Panathinaikos Athens
Stephane-LasmeBest Defender trophyStephane Lasme has always been known as disruptive defensive force. Now he is also a Euroleague Best Defender Trophy winner! The Panathinaikos Athens forward returned to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague this season and anchored his team's frontline as the Greens came within one game of a trip to the Final Four. Lasme was voted 2013 Best Defender by Turkish Airlines Euroleague head coaches in one of the closest races in competition history. The forward from Gabon did plenty to deserve the distinction. His 1.76 blocks per game were second in the league and he was tied for fourth in rebounding, averaging 6.14 per contest. Moreover, Lasme was the final line of defense for a rebuilt Panathinaikos squad, which finished the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season with the second-fewest points allowed, 69.8 per game. He joins teammate and six-time Best Defender Dimitris Diamantidis to become the second Panathinaikos player to win the award. Last season's winner, Andrei Kirilenko, and another CSKA Moscow player, Victor Khryapa, are the only other players to be awarded the honor. Diamantidis and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv center Shawn James tied for second place in the voting and Montepaschi Siena forward David Moss was not far behind.

The Best Defender Trophy is the third of several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Already announced was the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, which was won by Montepaschi Siena guard Bo McCalebb, and the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy, for players under 22, which went to Olympiacos Piraeus forward Kostas Papanikolaou. To be announced shortly are the All-Euroleague nominees and the first- and second-team honorees. The bwin MVP award will be revealed at the Efes Pilsener Euroleague Awards Ceremony on May 9. Two other awards, the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year, are given after the season ends.

This season was the third in the Euroleague with as many different clubs for Lasme, 30. This also marked the third season in which he garnered votes for the Best Defender Award; but this time Lasme had the most. He joined Panathinaikos late, sat out the Euroleague opener and played only 3 minutes in the second game of the regular season; if not for those empty minutes, Lasme would have ranked significantly higher in several 2012-13 statistical categories. From his first full game, a road win at Union Olimpija, Lasme sparkled. He led the team with 8 rebounds and rejected 5 shots. Lasme proceeded to block multiple shots in six of the next seven games to help lead the Greens into the Top 16. He added additional four- and five-block games in the Top 16, while fouling out just three times all season. Though Lasme is best known for his shot-blocking prowess – he rejected his 100th career Euroleague shot during the Top 16 – his complete package of speed, athleticism and timing separates him from the rest in many areas. In fact, he was among the big heroes in a 65-66 victory over Barcelona Regal in Game 2 of the playoffs when he switched on the final play to guard shooting guard and scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro. Lasme blocked Navarro's floater to snatch the victory.

After showing great promise as a teenager in Gabon, Lasme chose to play college basketball at the University of Massachusetts, where he was twice named the Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Lasme played for different clubs in the United States, both in the NBA and the NBA D-League, during the 2007-08 season. He first came to Europe to play for Partizan Belgrade the following season and then spent his second Euroleague campaign with Maccabi Electra in Israel. In both seasons he led his club to double titles in the domestic leagues and national cups. Last season Lasme played for Obradoiro CAB in Spain before moving to Athens this season, fitting in right away and adding another impressive award in his outstanding career.