TULSA, Oklahoma — Several larger teammates, some wearing highlighter-colored practice jerseys, are engaging in dunk contest for the delight of the oohing-and-aahing crowd of 500. It’s the day before the NCAA Tournament opens in Tulsa.
Manu Lecomte, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds and the smallest on the team by five inches, looks over and smiles. He’s at the other end of the court with the guards. He floats deep 3-pointers toward the rafters, swishing four in a row before missing.
He can dunk, though he hasn’t done it in a game and is more than content with not participating in this show. He does more than enough for Baylor, anyway.
Lecomte, now a redshirt junior, has become a difference-maker in his first season on the court after transferring from Miami. He wanted to be a full-time point guard, not the off-ball complement to Angel Rodriguez, so he left the Hurricanes in April 2015. After sitting out a year, he has become one of the best point guards in the Big 12.
The Brussels, Belgium native is the Bears’ second-leading scorer (12.4 points) and ranks eighth in the Big 12 in assists (3.9). He was always a strong shooter, and his 42 percent 3-point rate ranks seventh in the league.
Lecomte played 28 minutes a game as a freshman at Miami, scoring 7.7 points and dishing out 2.3 assists. He saw his minutes drop (22.4) as a sophomore, in Rodriguez’ first year after he sat out a transfer year of his own. Lecomte hit 3s at a 45.6 percent rate, but didn’t play a prominent role.
Baylor (25-7), which in January reached No. 1 in the polls for the first time in school history, is a 3-seed in the East region and faces 14-seed New Mexico State at 12:40 p.m. Friday.
“It’s March Madness and anything can happen,” he said. “I believe in my teammates. I believe we can win the national championship. But it starts tomorrow. We can’t overlook any team.”
It will be the first NCAA tournament game for Lecomte, 22. The Hurricanes missed the cut in his first season at UM, and reached the NIT Final in his sophomore year, with Rodriguez running the point.
UM, which lacks a true point guard and plays junior Ja’Quan Newton and freshman Bruce Brown on the ball, could use a player with his skillset. There are no hard feelings on either side.
“I’m happy,” Lecomte said. “I was happy at Miami. It was two great years, great experience, great coach, great teammates. It’s a new experience for me and it’s been great so far.”