Make no mistake, while Jake Layman may not be as loved by Maryland fans as Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, the senior has carved out a solid career in College Park. With the Terps set to start Layman's last NCAA Tournament, it's worth taking stock of just how much Layman has done for Maryland over four seasons.
He currently ranks tied for second all time in games played with 138, and is one of just 28 Maryland players to have 1,000 points and 500 career rebounds. If he stays on the court and Maryland makes the Elite Eight, Layman will move into first place for Maryland all-time, ahead of Juan Dixon, with 142 career games.(He's tied now with Drew Nicholas, Steve Blake and Lonny Baxter, which isn't bad company to keep.)
Layman has developed into a solid defender, and many times this season has been tasked with stopping the opponent's best player. Just ask Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff what it's like to be guarded by Layman.
Yet even though Layman serves his role well, he still receives some unjust criticism. Some feel he disappears too much on offense, and doesn't show up in big games.
While it might be easy this season to say that Layman disappears, that's really because he hasn't been given a huge role on offense. Ken Pomeroy tracks a player's role on his team each season, and Layman progressed from limited role (12 percent to 16 percent of possessions used) his freshman year, to role player (16 percent to 20 percent) his sophomore year, to a significant contributor (20 percent to 24 percent) his junior year. As his role on offense increased, his scoring average rose from 5.5 points per game as a freshman to 12.5 as a junior.
As a senior, Layman's role has decreased to role player, as he ends just 17 percent of Maryland's possessions while he's on the floor. That's a smaller role than both Evan Smotrycz and Dion Wiley had last season. The fact that a player as talented as Layman could have his role reduced this much on offense speaks to the depth the team has this season, with Layman one of five Terps averaging double figures in points.
But even with his reduced role, he has made the most of his opportunities. Layman currently leads Maryland in true shooting percentage (63.5) and is third on the team in offensive rating (114.3), both career highs. He's developed a good post game, and his three pointers coming off curls are tough to stop. It is astounding that Layman is setting career highs while being involved in the least amount of possessions since his freshman year.
Layman has also made an impact in so-called big games, especially after his dud against North Carolina earlier this season. Layman has stepped up numerous times lately in these types of games, most recently in Maryland's loss to Purdue. He scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting against the Boilermakers, and had an offensive rating of 166, his highest in Big Ten play. He also spurred a late comeback that ultimately fell short, wreaking havoc at the top of Maryland's full court trap.
After Melo Trimble made two free throws to pull the Terps to 74-66 with 3:42 left, Layman's pressure helped force turnovers on four of Purdue's next five possessions. Just 1:30 later, Rasheed Suliamon got a steal and passed it ahead to Layman, whose layup tied the game at 76. Maryland went on to lose 83-79, but Layman's impact went far beyond the box score.
Layman's defense has improved a lot since his freshman year, when he was 6'8 but weighed just 190 pounds wasn't strong enough to make an impact on that end of the floor. Now 6-9 and 220, Layman has used his newfound strength to become one of if not Maryland's best defensive player.
It's a shame for Layman that defense doesn't show up in the box score. When Maryland beat Iowa 73-68 on Jan. 28, Layman shot a below-average 5-of-15 including just 1-of-8 from three point range. But he made Uthoff's night miserable, holding the Hawkeyes leading scorer to 2-of-13 from the field.
His solid defensive performance continued against Ohio State, holding leading scorer Mark Loving to just nine points on 1-of-5 shooting. Layman also had a great game on offense, scoring 16 points and adding 10 rebounds.
Layman came to College Park in a highly touted recruiting class with Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell, and Seth Allen, but will leave as the only player remaining. While those players left to find seemingly better waters, Layman stuck with Maryland and has only seen his game improve every season.
He will leave Maryland as a player whose impact on the court might not be noticed until he's gone. When you're watching him play in Spokane this weekend, remember that.