Though the University of Miami men’s basketball is just one game over .500 for the season, has won only two Atlantic Coast Conference games in eight outings, and is winless in conference play at home for the season (0-4), not all is gloom and doom for the Hurricanes.
One of the more positive developments recently as they prepare for their Wednesday home game against Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South) has been the play of freshman point guard Manu Lecomte.
After losing his starting job after six games, Lecomte has returned to the lineup and given the Hurricanes a boost in their backcourt.
Throwing out the first of the six games he has started since the middle of January, when he made only one of his seven field goal attempts in Miami’s loss to Florida State, Lecomte has averaged 11.0 points per game, shot 57.6 percent from the field overall and 53.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc, and made eight of his 10 free throw attempts over the last five games.
He was in double figures for the fourth time in his last seven games with 13 points in Saturday’s win over Norfolk State, the Hurricanes’ first win at home since Dec. 30 when they beat La Salle.
In his last two games, Lecomte has gone 12-of-17 from the field overall and 6-of-8 from behind the arc. The six 3-pointers are the most he has made in back-to-back games this season with the previous high four in the second and third games of the season.
After shooting just 38.1 percent overall and under 40 percent from 3-point range and averaging 7.0 ppg through the first 16 games, Lecomte has upped those figures to 43.1, 43.9, and 8.0, respectively.
From the first-year collegian who seemed to prefer to defer to his older teammates when the season began, Lecomte has developed into a confident shooter no longer reluctant to step up and shoot, which is good.
Junior guard Sheldon McClelland, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Texas, sees Lecomte every day in practice and calls him the best shooter on the team.
He is a more confident one, Lecomte said.
“Yeah, probably,” Lecomte said when asked if he was hesitant to shoot earlier in the season. “I feel more confident now.”
Much of Lecomte’s struggles -- he was only 18 of 47 from field (38.3 percent) in a seven-game stretch that spanned late December and mid-January -- could be blamed on how much was demanded of him from the very start.
When Lecomte signed his letter-of-intent with Miami after playing for Belgian teams in European competition, he was expected to back up starter Shane Larkin at the point for at least a year, learning the game as he went along.
But when Larkin, who would have been a junior, bolted for the NBA last spring, Lecomte suddenly became the only point guard on the roster.
“I knew it was going to be a tough job being a point guard as a freshman and first-time playing in the U.S., I knew it was going to be tough,” he said Monday. “But I was ready for that.”
Thus a starting position nearly fell to him by default and he started the first six games. Then Miami went to a zone defense and at 5-feet-10, Lecomte became a liability at the opponent’s end of the court. He gave way to another freshman, 6-6 Davon Reed, whose presence on the perimeter was a big plus in the 2-3 zone.
But that hurt Reed’s development as a wingman and scoring guard, and Lecomte was back in the lineup by the middle of January. And he is a different player now with his offensive output helping compensate for whatever liabilities he has on defense.
“I think he has just become more accustomed to what is expected of him,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “He’s a very conservative young man, and he would probably prefer to just be distributing the ball to other really good scorers.”
Thus the early reluctance to take command, which is primary role for a point guard.
“He started out feeling like ‘Hey, I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I’m going to defer to the upper classmen and give the ball up.’ But he found out that’s not what I wanted from him,” Larranaga said. “I wanted more.
“When he figured that out he started to try more and do more and enjoy more success.”
How much Lecomte’s recent success continues to carry over likely will be a key factor for the Hurricanes as they try to improve on their 11-10 overall record and 2-6 ACC mark. Freshmen can be maddeningly inconsistent at times.
They have 10 games remaining in the regular season, all against league foes, before going into the conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the middle of March.