It’s just not easy to project how a player is going to turn out down the road; there are so many factors that determine if said player reaches his potential. Work ethic, state of mind, opportunity, natural talent. Any number of things can affect how far a player can go, some they control, some they don’t. Still, thanks in part to the compilation of vast databases that feature statistics of players past and present, we can find correlative relationships between two very similar players and expect similar growth. At the very least, we can get an idea of what a player might become, all things being equal.
Jake Layman is an interesting case to look at, particularly because it’s hard to peg what position he plays. At 6’8, 200 lbs, Layman’s size suggests he would play the three or four position, but in actuality, he is probably a guard more than anything else. I don’t see this as a disadvantage, but rather an advantage in that he is incredibly versatile. Layman can trot out at power forward and more than likely hold his own, or he can handle the ball around the perimeter like a shooting guard or small forward. It’s a good thing, folks.
Still, when you want to fit players into groups, you want to cast small forwards with small forwards, shooting guards with shooting guards,etc. It’s why Jake Layman is a tougher case. I decided to just start by comparing raw numbers with Layman. I wanted to find players who matched his height within two inches, his weight within five pounds, his stats, and had played in the ACC over the last fifteen years.
The database churned out 48 matches. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the players were power forwards like Eddie Odio, John Henson, and Okaro White. While they match him similarly in stature, their games couldn’t be more different. There was one name, however, that stuck out as interesting. Let’s just compare the two players first years in college basketball:
Player A: 19.9 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.9 AST, 39.6% FG, 29.9% 3FG, 69% FT
Player B: 14.5 MPG, 6.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 AST, 36.7% FG, 29.6% 3FG, 56.5% FT
Player A is, you guessed it, Jake Layman. But Player B? That would be North Carolina’s Reggie Bullock his freshman year. Immediately upon saying that it doesn’t really sound right, but never judge a book by it’s cover because it’s actually relatively accurate. Bullock and Layman aren’t exactly the same height, with Bullock being around 6’7, but they are pretty similar athletically. Neither one is the kind of explosive athlete you typically find at the G-F positions, but the two are still athletic. Theirs is just a smoother brand of athleticism; kind of quick, capable of dunking hard, decent lateral movement. Even though one has a frohawk and the other glowing golden locks, the two play the same game.
Bullock is pretty brutal at creating his own shot, in part because he dribbles like his hands are put on backwards, but set him up open for a three pointer and he’s going to knock it down in your face. He is good, however, at filling lanes correctly, moving without the ball, and getting open for his looks. Bullock was also known for being a streaky shooter his freshman year, and one who could knock down shots but couldn’t do it consistently enough to start right away. Even then, he wasn’t a capable enough rebounder to merit starting just based off that. His defense was alright, but nothing to write home about.
His sophomore year, however, everything changed.
Reggie Bullock Year II: 25.4 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 42.8% FG, 38.2% 3FG, 72.7% FT
As you can see, Bullock improved significantly when given more minutes. His field goal percentage shot up, and his three pointer started dropping at a much higher rate. That’s what happens with experience and more minutes; Bullock figured out his role in an offense and benefitted by spotting up while Kendall Marshall did all the work. Five of his seven shots per game that year ended up being from deep, so you can see exactly where he was getting most of his points from. Bullock also improved quite a bit defensively, and was able to excel at getting rebounds with the upped minutes.
To try to accurately compare Layman to Bullock’s sophomore year and see if they do match up as well as I thought, I decided to calculate a few of Jake Layman’s numbers when he averaged 20 minutes or more. In particular, I wanted three-point percentage, points per game, and rebounds per game. Layman played 20 or more minutes in 21 games this season, and here’s what I found:
Layman, 20+ MPG: 7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 35.6% 3FG
Surely enough, Layman’s statistics in extended minutes are incredibly similar to Reggie Bullock’s when you take out games that he didn’t play 20 or more minutes. It’s actually staggering how similar the two players are in this instance, with Bullock in year two being a better rebounder (slightly) and a better deep ball shooter (again, slightly). This matches up with what you see well, because while Layman is a darn good shooter, he can be streaky at times throughout a game. With limited minutes, sometimes he can’t shoot out of that slump as he ends up on the bench.
Both players are also capable of heating up and causing major damage from deep. I’m sure Terps fans are familiar with Bullock’s thrashing of them in their first meeting, and I’m sure Virginia Tech is familiar with Layman giving them the business during their first outing. It’s an example of what the two can do, and how they are similar in their explosive spurts.
Layman’s rebounding can at times be impressive, but with such competent rebounders around him like Charles Mitchell, Alex Len, and Dez Wells, his role wasn’t nearly as big in that regard.
All of this statistical correlation tells me one thing in particular: Jake Layman is going to be a baller. I see him fitting in at Maryland in a very similar role to Reggie Bullock’s at North Carolina. Fortunately for the Terrapins, I think Layman is already ahead of Reggie Bullock in terms of skill and progress. He has the potential to be a better rebounder because of his length and technique, though he will likely never be prolific at crashing the boards. His shooting is similar to most three-year players in college in that their shots don’t fall for average their freshman year, but the numbers aren’t indicative of ability. I’m expecting a much bigger leap in production from Layman as he gets more minutes and has more experience under his belt.
Layman is closer to Bullock’s sophomore year than his freshman year, so logic would tell you that, best case scenario, he may average closer to Bullock’s junior season numbers (13.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.9 AST, 43% 3FG) next year, though perhaps not as polished. The biggest thing differentiating them right now is that Bullock plays in a higher paced offense than the Terrapins, so the scoring numbers may not be as gaudy, even though he may be just as effective. If Layman can figure out how to score easier buckets by using his size in the lane correctly, he’ll be an effective scorer. He should have plenty of transition points for the Terrapins and exploit matchup problems that his size causes.
Layman does need to work on his passing a bit, but I think that will improve with more capable scorers around him. His defense stands to improve as he continues his conditioning, because with his length he should be able to make up for any defecit in lateral movement.
Either way, you have to like where Jake Layman is projected to go, if we’re comparing him to Reggie Bullock. Which I, surprisngly, found pretty apt for a comparison.