The commitment of incoming freshman Belgian point guard Emmanuel ("Manu") Lecomte, which we broke here on SOTU, came as surprise to @CanesHoops fans who are used to looking at major recruiting rankings to gauge the school's success on the trail. But it looks like assistant coach Michael Huger, a former MVP in Belgian's professional league, signed a player who might be a revelation - not only to Canes fans, but to the staff itself. Just 17, Lecomte took the time to answer some questions for us fresh off of an all-tournament performance at the European Under-20 (Division B) championships (read the article HERE). The budding international star speaks three languages, and we appreciate him not forcing us to learn Flemish or French before the interview!
Before we start I'd like to thank SidelineHoops (@Sideline_BBall) for allowing us to use the picture of Manu above and Stoeffel Castelein from @BelgianYouthBB for helping us find SidelineHoops.
Q: Manu, first of all, thanks for taking time to talk to us here at State of The U and congratulations on your all-tournament performance at the U20s! What could you tell us about your experience?
A: It was a great experience playing against guys who were older than me and who are already playing at a top level in Europe. It's always pride for me to play for my country.
Q: Why do you think that you played so well and had such exceptional statistics, compared to some previous successful European appearances?
A: I think I just put the work in, and then the results speak [for] themselves, I've worked really hard the whole year and in the preparation for that championship. My coach was also a big part of that, he put me in the best positions to make a great championship, he knows me very well and knows how I'm playing my best.
Q: What were your final average stats from the U20s (points, assists, steals & rebounds)?
A: My final average stats were: 21.6 points, 6.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 4.1 rebounds. (Editor's note: Lecomte led the tournament in assists and was second in scoring.)
Q: Were there any issues with you as the team leader at just age 17, when you were playing at the 20-year old level? Did your results speak for themselves, or was there anything in your leadership style that made the team more comfortable?
A: Although I was the youngest player in the team, I was captain of the team. I always try to play and to act like a guy who's 20 so at that moment people don't consider you as the youngest guy, so it was not a problem at all.
I wasn't only a leader on the floor but also off the floor that's what my coach expected from me. He wanted me to be an example for the team and I think I did a good job, it was also very important to me.
Q: How disappointing was it not to get promoted to Division A by just one point?
A: It was really disappointing for us but, you know, many good players had [planned] to come but they couldn't because they were injured so a lot of people were thinking before the championship that [Belgium] "ain't gonna win one game." And then we got that 4th place so I told my guys that we could be very proud of what we did.
Q: What was the Miami coaching staff's reaction to the success you had?
They said I [did] a great job but we didn't have the opportunity to talk about that yet.
Q: Could you tell us about your experience with the senior team (Belgian Lions)? Did you just practice with them, or did you see any minutes during a preseason friendly?
A: After the championship, the coach of the senior team told me that I was selected in the team. I've made one week of practices and then he told me that he doesn't want me to get hurt before I leave for Miami, so I didn't make any games and he gave me some rest till I leave for Miami.
Q: Do you expect that next summer, you will focus again with the U20 roster, or will the Lions be who you'd expect to spend much of your time with?
A: Well, after what the coach of the senior team told me, I will be selected again with the Lions but it also depends if I put the work in at Miami. But the coach is really positive about that, and I can't wait to be a part of the Lions.
Q: After you were released, what is your plan for the rest of August? When do you start practicing with the team?
A: I'm gonna start again the workouts next week till I leave for Miami. That means probably the 18th or the 19th.
Q: Have Miami's coaches given you things to work on before you arrive, or do they simply want you to rest after playing such heavy minutes?
A: They want me to rest a little bit but they haven't given me any particular things to work on.
Q: Have they told you how they plan to use you? It's unknown whether experienced Angel Rodriguez would be eligible to play this season, leading potentially to many available minutes. Are you ready for that responsibility? You are both smaller point guards, would you be able to play together if needed?
A: Coach told me to be ready to play because of Angel's eligibility and I told him that I will be ready. To be honest, I've never seen Angel playing but I heard about him and I think we will be able to play together if needed. I don't see any problem.
Q: What do you think you need to work on, coming off of this summer's experience?
A: I will probably have to add some weight because the game is a bit different than in Europe. But I'm used to work on every parts of my game.
Q: There has been some inconsistency in your measurements, which combined with your age, has made some Miami fans apprehensive that you're undersized, even with some impressive looking photographs from the tournament. What do you currently stand (with or without shoes, please let us know) ?
A: I am going to turn 18 the 16th of August, so I'm still 17 years. I'm between 5'10 and 5'11 without shoes.
Q: We've been told that you're considered a top 25 prospect in your class in Europe (Eurohopes.com has hinted that Manu will move the 15 to 25 range for the 1995 year when they update their rankings next month)? What made you want to play college basketball, and specifically, why did you then choose Miami? Has your relationship moved beyond initial contact with Coach Huger?
A: Yes, top 25. Well, I wanted to play in college because I think it's the best thing for me to improve my game and to reach another level. Other colleges wanted to offer me but I picked Miami because first, I think they have a very good coaching staff and second, because they play in best conference of the country.
Q: What will you miss most about home and what are you looking forward to most about Miami and living in the U.S.? Have you traveled to the States before? What are some of your favorite things - foods, shows, and so on - that you might miss or import over to the States?
A: I will miss my family the most and then my friends, but I'm looking forward to start a new life in the U.S. I'm really excited about that, moreover I've never been to the States! I'm not very difficult with the food so it won't be a problem about that.
Q: Thanks again for your time. Is there anything else you want to tell Canes fans?
A: Just wanna tell the Canes fans that they won't be disappointed to see me playing for the U!
*A special thanks to CanesHoops superfan Josh Frank (@JoshDaCane), who has become something of our "European Whisperer" here at State of the U.