Point guard Ryan Manuel arrived to campus in the summer of 2011just before the final year of the Matt Doherty era on the Hilltop.
Fast forward more than two years and two full basketball seasons, and Manuel is still here on the Hilltop but the junior is now entering the season with a completely new outlook and approach.
"I think this year, the game has slowed down so much more," Manuel said. "I think now it's much easier for me to make the right reads and make the right passes. I'm making way better passes than I made last year. The game is just more fun for me. This is a good atmosphere for me to be in."
For Manuel, the transition to upper class status has definitely been noticeable. Larry Brown demands a high level of achievement from all his players but even more so, from his veterans.
"Coach Brown expects a lot from me now," Manuel said. "Last year as a sophomore, he was kind of expecting me to be a leader, but now I think I'm more ready for that role.
"Now that I'm a junior, I'm ready to take the necessary steps to be a good player for this team, whatever that role is. If I need to be a leader, sixth man, starter, whatever he needs me to be I'm just ready to take that role."
In his second year on campus and first year as a starter, Manuel averaged 12.1 points per game along with 2.2 assists per game. With Brown paying a great deal of attention to the play of his point guards, Manuel has been working hard to show his coach that he has improved.
"He's just told me not to take any plays off and to get keep getting reps," Manuel said. "He's said that I can only get better, I can't get worse. I've been getting a lot of positive feedback so that's great coming from Coach Brown who's a very tough critic. When you get those compliments it feels good."
But it isn't just Manuel that has stepped up his game. The 6-foot-4 185-pound athlete believes that the increased level of competition has forced players old and new to take their talents to new heights.
"Our team is deep, everybody can play. One through fifteen," Manuel said. "That's what makes us so much better. Practice is competitive every single day, and I think that brings the best out of everybody."
"Now that we have a full squad instead of just five or six guys, we know that we can exert ourselves every single play because no matter what you do, somebody's going to come in and take your place."
Eager to prove their worth and earn their keep, the tempo and atmosphere brought by the newcomers on the team has caught Manuel's attention. His only hope is that they have that same passion they possess now, when the season rolls around.
"The young guys they're just adding energy man," Manuel said. "Ben Moore he plays hard all the time, Sterling Brown, same thing. Keith Frazier he's a pure shooter. Yanick (Moreira), he blocks every single shot. Those guys add a lot to the team and altogether we bring a lot more to the table than we did last year."
With the season set to tip off in a matter of weeks, Manuel is excited to begin achieving the plethora of goals he has set for himself.
"I want to make the first team all-conference defensive team and try to improve on everything that I did last year," he said. "I want to shoot ninety percent from the free throw line and shoot better from the three point line.
"Now that we're getting into a bigger conference, I know I won't be able to just get all the way to the rim so I want to be able to shoot more jump shots off the dribble. I just want to get better."
Getting to know Ryan Manuel
Hoops Feature: Ryan Manuel
Pony Stampede Top Stories
3 Up, 3 Down: SMU vs. TempleDemo has your three up, three down following SMU's loss to Temple on the road.
Pony Stampede12:32 PM
Rapid Reaction: SMU vs. TempleBilly has your rapid reaction to SMU's loss to Temple.
Pony Stampede12:20 PM
Gameday Central: SMU vs. TempleCome inside Pony Stampede' Gameday Central for the latest on SMU's road AAC matchup against Temple at 11 am CT on ESPNews.
Pony Stampede8:00 AM
Pony Stampede Podcast Sept. 28Come inside another edition of the Pony Stampede Podcast for the latest on the SMU hoops team and a TCU game breakdown.
Pony StampedeTuesday at 10:59 PM