As Jake Layman bent his knees and rose up in front of the Maryland bench, his teammates did the same. With 9 minutes 15 seconds left in Tuesday’s win over Boston College and the Terrapins looking to extend a 45-43 lead, they sensed a moment.
Dez Wells, handling extended point guard duties for the first time this season, drove hard right and invited three Eagles defenders to hedge. That left Layman alone in the corner. The shot went up. On the bench, Alex Len put his right arm up. Layman did the same with both arms. Then the referee followed suit. Swish.
Layman celebrated. The hair that spawned a parody Twitter account flopped. As Boston College Coach Steve Donahue called a timeout to stem the bleeding, Layman bounded into the huddle, as fired up as he’s been all season.
“Well, we need someone to make shots,” Maryland guard Logan Aronhalt said. “Especially with our offense struggling the way it has been the past couple games. You can run a terrible set or a great set, but if you have someone who can’t make a shot, it hurts us either way. Him making shots really helps us.”
Layman insists his role doesn’t matter, that he’ll come to play regardless of whether he starts or not. But it’s hard to ignore the results. Albeit in a small sample size, Layman has been vastly better when he appears in Maryland’s starting lineup. He torched Virginia Tech for a career-high 20 points on Jan. 5 and Maryland-Eastern Shore for 10 points in 22 minutes this December. Then he lit up Boston College for 15 points in 28 minutes, shooting 5 for 9 from the field with five rebounds, one assist and one turnover.
Coach Mark Turgeon “just told me I was starting. I went and started,” Layman said. “He’s big into superstitions. To me, it doesn’t really matter. Each way I’ll come out there and work as hard as I can and try to play my best. It’s not a factor for me, whether I start or not.”
Perhaps starting simply allows Layman to develop a better rhythm. Those three starts mark the only times the freshman swingman has scored in double figures this season. And against his hometown school, one of the first programs to offer him a scholarship, Layman might have solidified himself a starting spot, at least until proven otherwise.
“He was excited against Boston College, too,” Turgeon said. “I think he feels more comfortable and I know I feel more comfortable with him. Just gives us a shooter, an athlete. Kid’s going to be a really good player. It’s great to see him play with confidence out there. He was really good defensively. I couldn’t even get him on the court earlier in the year, he was so bad defensively. He was really good defensively, that’s why he could stay out there.”
Or perhaps this is simply a new Jake Layman, a far departure from the deer-in-the-headlights freshman who surfaced at times this season. He was aggressive, driving to the hoop with authority, rather than merely catching a pass on the wing, looking around then giving it up. He appeared quicker defensively and less tentative offensively, backing up his customary jump shot with uncharacteristic attacks on the rim.
“I think from the start, hitting that first 3 really helped me out,” Layman said. “I was looking for my shot, got some open lanes, and I was finishing. [I’m] much more comfortable. It’s a complete different player from when I first started. I’m much more comfortable.
“I need to realize that I can put the ball on the floor too, and I can start doing that more.”