During a more pleasant moment Sunday night at Florida State, before the Maryland men’s basketball team suffered its second straight blowout loss, Terrapins sophomore Jake Layman heard assistant coach Scott Spinelli yelling from the sideline to be aggressive.
Spinelli’s words seemed to resonate, so Layman caught the basketball in the right corner, where he often situates himself, and attacked the rim. He cocked his arm back and jumped high for a furious dunk.
“It’s the next phase for him,” Coach Mark Turgeon said of Layman’s need for more aggression. “He’s trying to add that. He’s got to manufacture more points.”
As the Seminoles expanded their lead with a torrid offensive stretch, Layman was in the game yet nearly invisible. On Maryland’s final 13 offensive possessions of the first half, he touched the ball exactly once, but the aggressiveness he displayed on that missed dunk could be a sign of greater success moving forward.
Though Layman still ranks second in scoring with 12.9 points per game, he remains mired in a five-game slump entering Wednesday’s matchup against Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2 ACC). During that span, Layman is shooting 29.4 percent from the field and 21.1 percent on three-pointers. He hasn’t made more than three field goals on any given night.
“I’m just learning that I have to work harder for the ball, and when I get the ball I have to drive to the basket and shoot more pull-up jumpers instead of shooting threes all the time,” Layman said.
ACC teams took notice after Layman torched Morgan State for 27 points and Florida Atlantic for 22. They then quickly deciphered how to guard him. The game plan is simple. Fifty-five percent of his field goal attempts are three-pointers and 94.6 percent of his makes are assisted, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Simply put, Layman does not create his own shot within the bounds of Turgeon’s motion system. He curls off down screens and cuts across the baseline, but spends many possessions standing in the corner, waiting for the defender to leave him.
These days, few do — and the Terps (10-7, 2-2) must adjust.
“Our system’s got to be better, and it’ll happen,” Turgeon said. “Our point guards got to do a better job of finding guys on the break. A lot of times, to be honest with you, within the plays and stuff we’re doing, we just flat out miss him. Guys just flat out miss him.”
Unlike slashers such as Nick Faust, Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Roddy Peters, Layman’s offensive production is closely tied to team-wide execution. If post players set soft screens, for instance, Layman struggles to spring free. Earlier this season, Turgeon cracked that if Layman walked several rows into the stands, a defender would follow him. It contained more than a hint of truth.
“He’s doing a great job of staying positive, staying focused,” Faust said. “I think he’ll be fine. We just got to do everything we can to get him more shots, get him more open. Teams are locking in on him. It’s kind of just setting him up and running him off screens, seeing if he can get an open shot.”
Or Layman can create himself. Midway through the first half Sunday, Layman popped onto the wing and faded into the corner. Without hesitation, he dribbled once and took flight. Florida State center Boris Bojanovsky met Layman at the rim but stumbled backward as Layman reared back and the basketball slammed off the back iron.
“I was kind of mad he didn’t finish it,” Faust said, even though the attempt itself marked a step forward, a chance to end the slump.