Editors note: Please welcome Matt Ellentuck, who will be doing some basketball coverage for Testudo Times over the next few months. This article will be the first in a series that will break down the seasons of each significant contributor to Maryland's 2014-15 men's basketball team.
Maryland basketball and head coach Mark Turgeon received great news when forward Jake Layman decided he would return to College Park for his senior season. Layman has improved in each of his seasons at Maryland and last year provided the offensive boost the Terrapins needed in December after senior guard Dez Wells went down with a broken wrist. He, alongside Melo Trimble, closed the end of 2014 with a 6-1 record in Wells' absence.
The junior averaged 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in those seven games on 46.8 percent shooting from the field including 37.5 percent from deep. He got to the free throw line nearly seven times per game, including 14 times in a 21-point outing against Winthrop. Layman showed just how talented he was offensively when given the opportunity.
For the rest of the season, his numbers fluctuated, as expected in a crowded Maryland lineup, which featured two players - Trimble and Wells - averaging over 15 points per night.
While he wasn't scoring well every night, he was shooting efficiently in his limited attempts as the third scorer on an offensively talented team. His true shooting percentage rose to an impressive 58.9 percent, six percentage points higher than his sophomore season. His ability to get the free throw line helped his true shooting numbers exceed conference rival forwards Terran Petteway, Troy Williams and Branden Dawson while only trailing projected lottery pick Sam Dekker by 1.6 percent.
Layman also rebounded better than he had in his two prior seasons. He brought down 11.9 rebounds per 100 possessions, 2.7 more than the year before.
What was under-appreciated most about Layman last season, however, was his ability to defend, not only on the ball, but also away from it. Maryland's defense ranked 40th in the nation, per KenPom, 18 spots better than its offense. Layman finished the season with the Terps' third best defensive rating at 97.0 behind Damonte Dodd and Evan Smotrycz, whom he nearly played more minutes than combined.
Video courtesy of Big Ten Network
While Layman ultimately decided to stay for his senior season, there was discussion he would declare for the draft. Early mocks had him as a borderline late 1st to early 2nd round pick. Scouts love nothing more than to compare college athletes to pros with similar body types, and the consensus had Layman as a future Chandler Parsons.
There is a good amount in common between the two. Looking at their junior year numbers, both were the third scorer on their teams - Parsons behind Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. Their true shooting and win share numbers are separated by .2 percent and .05 percent, respectively, both in Layman's favor. Layman scored 12.5 points per game compared to Parsons 12.4, though Parsons did rebound and assist significantly better all with a usage rate 2.5 percentage points lower.
Parsons stayed for his senior year as well and was selected late with the 38th pick in 2011, yet is living comfortably after surprising many, on a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Not a bad person for the Terps forward to be compared to.
Layman will look to pick up where he left off last season in a more relaxed environment as Maryland brings in one of the toughest frontcourt duos in the nation to take some pressure off the skinnier combo forward. 6-foot-9 transfer power forward Robert Carter Jr. and 6-foot-10 Diamond Stone will bring over 13 feet and 485 pounds in to barrel the paint while Layman stretches the floor. With his perimeter shooting game complemented with breakout freshmen Jared Nickens' and Trimble's, defenses should start game-planning now, as the Terrapins will likely open the season with their highest pre-season ranking since 2002... and we all know how that season finished.