Miami freshman point guard Lecomte prepares to face SU’s Ennis in rematch
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Wainwright | Miami Athletics
He’s not fast, but quick. Not strong, but aggressive. Teammates rave about this freshman’s pass-first nature, and he’s crucial to his team’s lockdown zone defense.
“He’s a good player,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He handles the ball. He looks for people. He’s scoring now.”
But he’s not Tyler Ennis. And he doesn’t play for Syracuse.
Miami’s 18-year-old Belgian import Manu Lecomte has surged onto the Atlantic Coast Conference scene with a strong three-game stretch that coincides with his return to the starting lineup. In the Hurricanes’ near upset of the No. 2 Orange on Jan. 4, he showcased flashes of that talent with a pair of smooth floaters in the lane.
But since, he’s averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 assists in a recent three-game span, including a 16-point outburst in a 56-42 Miami (Fla.) win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. And he brings that increased confidence into the Hurricanes’ rematch with Syracuse on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“When I play against other freshman, I just want to prove I’m better,” Lecomte said. “… I know (Ennis is) a great point guard.”
But for all the praise Ennis gets as a mature freshman, Lecomte brings similar poise and experience. He played professionally in Belgium and captained the under-20 national team at just 17-years-old last summer.
His 5-foot-11, 159-pound frame and youthful facial features are deceptive and his decision-making is reflective of that — especially late in games.
”I’ve honestly learned to trust in him and know that he’s going to make the right decisions,” senior guard Rion Brown said. “As he was telling me earlier today, he’s been getting me a lot of buckets lately. So I can’t complain.”
At the start, though, ACC-style basketball was an adjustment for Lecomte. He was accustomed to slower, half-court sets and craftier, more finesse-driven players. He was very passive, Brown said, and seemed like he didn’t know what to expect at times.
Probably because he didn’t. Lecomte said the only American basketball he watched was on YouTube, primarily Duke and North Carolina highlights.
He never watched ESPN and even when he did get to see the Tar Heels firsthand earlier this season, their signature fast break offense — even off a made basket — shocked him.
“That was crazy,” Lecomte said.
But with each game he grows more comfortable. After Lecomte lost the starting spot six games into the season — he stumbled through a two-game stretch in which he shot 2-for-12 for only five points and recorded five turnovers to two assists — he bounced back in conference play.
He continues to speed his game up and it’s been enough to earn his starting spot back for the Hurricanes.
Brown said he sees Lecomte’s aggression improve every day in practice, and compared his late-game composure to that of Shane Larkin, who led Miami to the Sweet 16 last season and now plays for the Dallas Mavericks.
Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga joked that the freshman now has more trouble figuring out how to handle the media than run the offense.
“He’s gotten his feet wet,” Larranaga said. “He’s pretty much indoctrinated into the college game.”
Lecomte said he’s excited for a second chance to match up with Ennis. And this time he’s starting.
The Hurricanes gave the Orange a scare in its first conference game, and an improved Lecomte could put Miami over the edge.
Said Lecomte: “I know I’m a freshman. I’m pretty young. I’m only 18. But like Coach said, ‘It don’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior, you’ve got to play your game.”’
Published on January 23, 2014 at 12:15 am