2013-2014 In Review
For Jake Layman, the ’13-’14 season started off in a very similar manner to which the team itself started off: lots of hype and lots of expectations. During the offseason Layman was looked at by many as a potential NBA player and the next likely candidate to leave early for greener pastures, supplanting Dez Wells as the “most NBA-ready” guy on the roster. There were scouts coming to watch him during open scrimmages, and even more in the house for games against Connecticut and Oregon State earlier in the season.
Layman, despite having a pretty mediocre freshman year in which he showed he was capable of being (at worst) a streaky scorer, had a lot to live up to. And to start the year, he may have even exceeded it a bit. Through seven games in November, Layman was a machine: 47% from the floor, a staggering 51% from deep, and averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds a game. Layman wasn’t just beating up teams, he was destroying them.
He made Morgan State look like a JUCO squad with 27 points and seven made threes; he hit four threes in a route over Marist; he had 19 points, two blocks and six rebounds against Abilene Christian; his 15 points and 7 rebounds against Oregon State were the main reason Maryland was even in that game. Layman was heading into conference play with more momentum than anyone else on the roster, easily.
Then Ohio State happened (1-of-9 shooting, two points). And Tulsa happened (2-of-10 from the field). Layman started noticeably cooling off against some of the more tough opponents. It felt like anyone with an RPI below 100 meant that Layman was going to starve to death rather than enjoy a giant feast. And as the schedule got tougher, Layman’s total point totals just steadily declined:
November: 115 points over 7 games, 47% shooting
December: 85 points over 7 games, 39.7% shooting
January: 66 points over 7 games, 38.7% shooting
February: 69 points over 7 games, 42% shooting
March: 41 points over 4 games, 27% shooting
Layman’s conference totals? 9.9 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 31% 3PT, 37% from the floor. Ouch.
Maryland needed Layman to be good during conference play, and what they got was a prolonged slump and a streaky shooter. Layman struggled mightily against tougher competition, and a lot of folks noticed. Given his billing as a top tier scorer, logically the fans were a little rattled (to say the least).
The good news for Jake Layman is that, unquestionably, he’s a much better defender now than he was his freshman year. It’s amazing what an offseason can do for a player, and Layman clearly used his time to upgrade himself defensively, because his agility and ability to read a play improved quite a bit from his freshman year.
Layman doesn’t need defending when it comes to his play at the end of the court we least expected him to, the stats back him up just fine:
Who was tied for first on the team in blocks? Jake.
Who was second on the team in steals? Jake.
Who was third in defensive rebounds? Jake.
Fourth in defensive rating? Jake.
He played better than anyone expected him to at that end, and it showed. Layman’s length did cause players trouble, but it was the fact that you could count on him to not give up on plays that helped out so much. Layman covered up a lot of people’s errors by being a very competent help defender. He bailed both Smotrycz, Cleare and Chuck out quite a bit on the defensive end by being very close to perfect on his slides.
Another thing Layman got a whole lot better in had to do with the one area Maryland improved the most from last year: turnovers. Maryland committed a whopping 569 turnovers last year, but this year that number was down to 408 (two less than their opponents!). That’s still not great, but Layman played a big part by only turning the ball over 37 times (compared to 39 a year ago) despite playing 300 more minutes than he did his freshman year. His turnover rates were in the single digits, which is fantastic for a guard-forward type player.
Finally, Layman showed incremental improvements at getting to the free throw line, too, which helped raise his true shooting percentage from 51% to 53% overall. That’s a subtle increase, but one that’s notable because that usually just gets better. And Layman didn’t need to be involved in the offense much more than his freshman year in order to remain mildly effective (16% usage rate his freshman season to 19% his sophomore season).
The bad news for Jake is that the improvements weren’t as astronomical as most people expected to see this season, and in many areas there just weren’t many improvements to look at. Maryland expected a sharpshooter in Layman, but they actually got very middling (and downright scarily average) production out of him.
Take, for example, that three point percentage. Layman hit 36% of his three point attempts from the floor this season, which is actually a massive improvement from his 30% from last season. The sophomore season total is markedly better, but it’s still not elite. Nick Faust shot 36% from deep his sophomore season, too. And he shot around 30% his freshman year as well while attempting around the same amount of triples.
What we have here is a slight divergence between the two players, but similar incremental improvements that can be largely attributable to same size. Layman is a superior shooter, to be clear, but not by a lot. He is still reliant on volume, and hasn’t shown the consistency as a scorer that would give him the label of “elite”.
Worse still, Layman was actually worse as a jump shooter than his freshman season, where he shot 55% on his two-point attempts. This year, it was down to 44%. Layman took more and became less effective, those are the facts. I don’t think sophomore slumps are even realistic in college, but if ever a player were suspected of having one, it’s Layman.
Worse still, Layman is very one dimensional at this point. Among the guys who got regular minutes on the team, only Jonathan Graham, Charles Mitchell, Damonte Dodd, and Shaquille Cleare had fewer assists. That’s not being a consummate teammate, that’s taking shots whenever you decide to get the ball.
And yet, Layman’s not selfish. Or at least, he doesn’t appear to be remotely selfish, he just sometimes takes the wrong shots when he could pass it or attempt an even high percentage look. That’s the differentiation between a heist-box and Layman. Layman’s numbers aren’t incredible as a passer, but he’s adept at moving the ball around. Hes just not a playmaker in any fashion yet, and that’s okay.
But he’s going to have to start diversifying his game even more if he expects to improve those in-conference numbers at all, and he needs to do it for Maryland to be successful. More drives to the basket, more movement off screens and cuts to the rim, more attempts at getting down low for higher percentage looks.
And Maryland needs him, badly. I’ll leave you with Layman’s numbers in Maryland wins, and his numbers in Maryland losses:
Overall Grade: B
Layman, despite his lumps, was instrumental in Maryland winning numerous games. He gets credit for all that, without a doubt. He does need to become a more consistent shooter though, and struggled heavily against top tier players.