Remember back when we all prayed Ryan Manuel didn’t come off the bench too often? As if he hadn’t already done enough this season to prove us wrong, he made us look darn right ridiculous Saturday night when he dropped 20 points in SMU’s 75-56 win over UCF.
It was Manuel’s best scoring performance since 2012, when he dropped 24 as a sophomore against Rider in SMU’s fifth game of that season.
“It’s been a long time [since I scored like that],” Ryan said. I was just playing like I usually play. The only thing [different] about it was that I took some jump shots, because in practice when I don’t shoot it, Coach Brown gets mad. He just tells me to shoot it every time I get it”
That year he averaged 12.1 points and started all but one game. As a freshman he only averaged 3.3 points a game, but was in a much more limited role with the team. As was the case in 2013, when he averaged 4.5 points a game and didn’t start in a single conference game.
It should be pointed out that 2013 was the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural season and it could be argued that the AAC was much tougher than Conference USA…or at least it was supposed to be.
Anyway, Manuel has seen his playing time go up recently- due, in large part, to the fact that his defensive skills and style of play pair well Nic Moore. Manuel is a slasher, and is SMU’s best on the ball defender. His presence on the court prevents Moore from having to defend the opponent’s best guard and focus more on the offensive side of the ball.
“He is getting better every day,” head coach Larry Brown said. “Everyone knows he defends great, but he is doing a lot of other things. It’s great, (it’s his senior year) seeing him step up. He made a three, made a jump shot on an isolation play. You know, without Keith [Frazier] and without Justin [Martin], his role become more and more important.”
Unless your name is Patrick Engel, you didn’t think Manuel was going to be this important of a contributor late in the season. No, you were probably thinking Ben Emelogu would be a much more important piece and up until Saturday night you were wrong (me too).
“I don’t worry about his shot,” said Brown. “He got some rebounds and he defended like crazy- those are the things that are more important to me. I think if you focus on those things than the other stuff will just take care of itself. For him to think we are going to win game because he is making outside shots, puts pressure on him every time he shoots the ball. But for him thinks we will win games if he gets loose balls, rebound and defends, I think that will be a good thing for him.”
Normally I agree with Brown, but not this time. I think most athletes are by nature a little narcissistic and want to feed themselves before they feed others. The entire sports culture is built on a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So it is only natural that athletes begin to look out more for their own stats first- especially at the collegiate level where they aren’t being paid monetarily to bust their butts for the team.
I’m not necessarily saying that Emelogu is one of those guys, but I am saying that he starts to rebound and “defend like crazy” once he has knocked down a couple of threes. And with Frazier, and Martin gone, Nic Moore is SMU’s only threat from long range.
This is what made the lineup of Moore, Manuel, Ben Moore, Markus Kennedy, and Yanick Moreira so fascinating. I’ve always wanted to see this line up (I think a lot of us have) and was very excited to see it rolled out tonight. I was wondering why we hadn’t seen it, and why Brown decided to use it tonight.
Well for one thing, Sterling Brown was in early foul trouble (this also cause Jonathan Wilfong to make an early game appearance- much to my shagrin). Plus, to paraphrase Larry Brown, UCF forced their hand.
“We don’t have a choice,” he said. “They went big, so we decided to put Ben Moore there. And then it is imperative for guys like Ryan and Ben to shoot the ball, because with three bigs, a lot of times you give up outside shooting and people may have a tendency to zone you a little bit or sag. So when I am yelling at Ben or Ryan every day, I just want them to be more and more confident shooting the ball.”
Well Manuel gave him 20 and Emelogu had nine on three of three shooting from behind the arc- I’d say they are pretty confident.