ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – It happens at least once a game, the thing Maryland men’s basketball fans have come to known as the “Jake Layman Run.” Maybe the Terrapins are stuck in a lull, desperate for a spark, or perhaps the game just needs to be blown wide open. Either way, they know who to find.
“If Jake’s got it going, we’re going to give Jake the ball,” center Shaquille Cleare said. “Our starting five has a lot of magnificent scorers. We can depend on anyone. But if we need a shot we’re going to look to Jake.”
And so Marist learned the hard way during Maryland’s 68-43 rout of Marist on Friday afternoon at the Paradise Jam, when Layman twice brought five-point bursts almost by himself. He finished with 16 points, a game- and team-high, and has topped double digits in all four games this season. His 15.8 points per game lead the Terps, as does his 52 percent shooting on three-pointers, even though his 33.2 usage percentage ranks eighth on the team.
“It’s hard to get him shots,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s really hard to get Jake shots, because of the way people are guarding. I thought we did a better job screening for him, executing better and getting him some shots. He makes big ones for us. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. Defensively he’s getting better. We need Jake to play the way he’s been.”
“The way” is, by far, becoming Maryland’s most consistent offensive threat, even though his game has been mostly limited to deep attempts off screens and in transition. The sophomore’s long arms and quick release make his shot almost uncontestable and, besides, his form probably belongs on instructional videos.
Any warm-weather connection to be made between Layman’s 21.3 points per game during the summer tour to the Bahamas and his 4-of-6 shooting performance on three-pointers against Marist easily dissipates by what looking at what came between. He scored 13 points in the opener, 19 against Abilene Christian and 15 more vs. Oregon State, all while averaging a team-high 32.5 minutes per game, all while serving as Maryland’s go-to bombardier.
“We’ll run a play for him, then he’ll hit a shot,” guard Varun Ram said. “Then we’ll run another play for him, and keep trying to get him the ball. He can shoot the heck of the ball. When he’s hot, we just try to keep getting him the ball. It’s working so far. I guess he’s a little more relaxed with a positive attitude.”
One particularly inconsequential play against the Red Foxes highlighted Layman’s growth since his freshman year, when around this time he was struggling to adapt to college life and bound for a brief, one-half suspension because of academic reasons.
As Marist unleashed its full-court press, junior Dez Wells looked toward Layman, who was standing near media row opposite the team benches. Wells’s pass was high, so high that Layman jumped, caught it with one hand and fired the basketball across the court, all in one motion. His pass was aimed at Cleare, who hesitated and let it trickle out of bounds. “Get the ball Shaq,” Layman screamed at his classmate, and last season that moment might not have happened at all.
“I think just having another year under my belt, I have to be a leader out there,” he said.