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CanesHoops Guard Elevates His Game and His Country

At this time last year, Manu Lecomte's projected impact on the Miami Hurricanes basketball team was largely unknown. An import from Europe who no fans had laid eyes on, his freshman success was foretold by his success with the Belgium Under-20 National Team, as Lecomte, at just 17 years old, captained the team to a fourth-place finish in the FIBA U-20 European Championship Division B, while earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team averaging 21.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists while playing nearly every minute of every game. Projected to back up Shane Larkin as he adjusted to the American game, Lecomte started half of Miami's games.

FIBA Europe/Ville Vuorinen

This summer, while many of his teammates were in summer school and early workouts, Lecomte returned to Europe to again captain the Belgians through the U-20 tournament, held in Sarajevo. Lecomte said that over the course of the year, he "got bigger, spent a lot of time in the weight room and then on my shot. It's gotten better. I'm also more aggressive. I worked the whole time on that." After a year adjusting to the American game and a more balanced team, he felt his biggest challenge was "to bring my game that I learned here to make my team better and to be one of the best players in the tournament."

Lecomte accomplished both. Playing on a more well-rounded team, Lecomte led the Belgians to the final and a promotion to Division A, with their only defeats coming to undefeated host Bosnia-Herzegovina in both the opening game and the final. He again made the All-Tournament Team, averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.1 steals in a more reasonable 30.4 minutes per game. Asked about his experience, Lecomte said, "I was proud and had fun, all my coaches said I improved a lot and got stronger."

As an inexperienced, shorthanded team struggled through adversity on the way to an ultimately successful season last year, many fans may have overlooked how well Lecomte performed compared to his predecessor. Averaging 7.7 points, 2.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds, Lecomte's numbers appeared solid for a freshman, but not outstanding. However, in some respects, he equaled or even surpassed Larkin's freshman year - and we all know what sort of leap Larkin made in his sophomore year, ultimately leading to his early entry into the NBA. With similar assist, turnover, and rebounding numbers, Lecomte's primary edge was as a shooter - his shooting percentage from the field and three-point line outstripped Larkin by 6.5 percent, though Larkin did outperform Lecomte at the free-throw line. His offensive rating was nearly four points higher, but Larkin's improved defense, with an extra steal per game, gave him a better defensive rating by seven points, and an overall Player Efficiency Rating of 14.2 to Lecomte's 12.1. If Lecomte can use his added physical strength and familiarity with the American style of basketball in his sophomore year, he will have the opportunity to make the same sort of improvements that Larkin did.

And Lecomte will need every edge heading into this season, as there will be heavy competition for playing time with Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez now eligible and top 50 freshman Ja'Quan Newton in the mix as well. The Hurricanes' upcoming exhibition trip to Spain should help the staff experiment with various lineups and gauge how to allocate those minutes, but with a thin frontcourt, look for Lecomte to be a major contributor again this year, even in a different role.

Editor's note: A belated tip of the hat to our CanesHoops Consigliere Josh Frank @JoshDaCane for his input and editing magic!