Mark Turgeon's first class was a monster, a six-man behemoth that is arguably Maryland's most promising in the last decade. But if you don't follow recruiting, the six will-be-freshmen aren't much more than names. Over the next several days, we'll be overviewing the class, recruit by recruit, introducing the newest batch of Terrapins to their future fanbase. We've already looked at Bahamian big Shaq Cleare. Now, we turn to the lanky, potential-laden New England wing, Jake Layman. Sadly, I don't know his middle name.
Name: Jake Layman
HS: King Phillip
From: Wrentham, Ma.
Rankings: 247: , #14 SF, #61 overall; ESPN: , #17 SF, #67 overall; Rivals: , #17 SF, #70 overall; Scout: , #14 SF, #65 overall; BIAH Consensus: #61 overall
Recruiter: Scott Spinelli
Committed: Sept. 6, 2011
Needs Improvement: He's probably the most raw of Maryland's recruits, save for Damonte Dodd, and along with Seth Allen is facing the biggest leap from high school to college ball. His high school competition was essentially non-existent, and he has only a single summer of elite AAU play under his belt, coming off the bench at that. He'll almost certainly need time to adjust to the pace and intensity of the college game, but Maryland's roster can't afford him too much of that. Similarly, he drifted a bit for BABC and needs to stay focused at all times, and probably develop a bit of a killer instinct - look for his own shot some more, and be more confident about playing through contact. That will likely come with experience and playing time, so it's not a real long-term worry for me. His first concern in College Park should probably be getting in a strength program. He's not too thin, but his frame can definitely support more weight, which should increase his confidence, make him an even better finisher at the rim, and allow him to back down smaller wings. I'm also intrigued to see how his lateral quickness holds up at this level. It was my one real concern defensively after watching him a few times; he was usually able to stay in front of his man, but if Maryland is going to play him as an out-and-out wing that'll be tougher to do at the high-major level. His shot from deep is pretty streaky, as well, so he'll need to work on that before he's a real option as a sharpshooter, and he should continue to work at expanding his offensive arsenal - but at this point I'm getting a little nitpicky.
Interesting Storyline: I'm not sure if this qualifies as an interesting storyline - actually, y'know what, no, it doesn't, but I'm saying it anyway. My dream situation for Maryland by 2013-14 is a swingman combo of Layman and Nick Faust - both long, athletic, matchup problems on offense and intense, potentially shutdown-type defenders. Gaaaaah.
Comparison: The two that everyone loves are Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward (and yes, I know, that's racist). Parsons is the better of the two; Layman is probably a bit more athletic, Parsons a bit better of a shooter, but their size, fluidity, and skill level are good matches. A sneaky one, and admittedly one I didn't think of at first, might be someone like Tyler Honeycutt, formerly at UCLA, who had Layman's physical tools but struggled with the speed of the game and asserting himself - challenges Layman may face as well. It took Honeycutt a few years to get going, but left for the league after his junior year and was an early second-round pick.
Prediction: Maryland's staff supposedly likes him a hell of a lot - they did, after all, in effect turn away the more highly-regarded Jerami Grant for him. That means he'll be a priority for them, and while they won't rush him it's obvious they see something there. Starting might be a bridge too far, with a perhaps more likely situation being Sam Cassell Jr. playing alongside Pe`Shon Howard and Nick Faust on the perimeter. But Faust is the only real wing on the roster, which means Layman will get significant minutes - there's not much of an option. Out of everyone coming in this year, I'd probably say Layman has the most potential of any of them (save perhaps Dodd, mostly because we still don't know much about him). This will sound a lot like what I said about Shaq Cleare, but it holds true: he should get minutes this year, be a frontrunner for a starting spot next year once he finds his legs at this level, and has potential to be a real impact player after that.
In a Turtleshell: Layman has fantastic physical tools and has a bright future as a matchup nightmare and pesky defender. His biggest shortcomings are very easily remedied - some time in the weight room will add upper-body strength, and time on the court against top-level competition should get him up to speed fairly quickly. Even if those two aspects don't come around, he could very easily be an impact player defensively. And if they do, there's almost no telling how high he can go as an all-around option.