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On Maryland basketball's senior night, Jake Layman goes out with a bang

The Terps' longest-tenured contributor got a night in the spotlight.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Layman got to Maryland in 2012, when Terrapins basketball was down. He was part of a four-man class, and the other three transferred away after the program had two more bad seasons.

Layman didn't leave then, nor did he leave for the NBA after last season. So after the senior's 18-point home finale in which he got perhaps the loudest cheers of his career in a College Park send-off, his coach was in a reflective mood.

"He's one of my all-time favorites, because he stuck with me," Mark Turgeon said about a half-hour after he pulled Layman to a rousing cheer in Maryland's win against Illinois. "He stuck with the program. He stuck with Maryland basketball. He grew up liking Maryland basketball. He committed to us when we weren't very good. I don't know what we were picked the first year in the ACC, but it wasn't very high."

Layman, like every other college basketball player, hasn't had a perfect career. He struggled a little bit as a freshman, and he's drifted into passivity on offense for spells ever since. He's also played alongside "it" players like Melo Trimble and Dez Wells for as long as he's been at Maryland, and maybe that's contributed to what's often felt like an unusual fan indifference to a player who's been in Maryland's top five in win shares for four years in a row.

It's not an indifference shared by his teammates, or by his coach.

"I think me and Coach Turgeon will carry a relationship on for hopefully the rest of my life," Layman said. "We've been through a lot. I've stuck with him. He's stuck with me. To kind of see where the program is now, I'm just so happy for him."

Durable contribution is the trait that's generally defined Layman's tenure at Maryland.. He's been an essential piece for Turgeon for a little more than 75 percent of his career, and the next dissatisfactory public word Turgeon, a teammate or a manager (even off the record) mutters about him will be the first one. So the booming ovations Layman got before the game and as he exited in the final three minutes were more than a little poetic.

"You live for those moments, just to see the crowd behind us," Layman said.

Layman didn't waste it. He shot 3-of-5 on three-pointers and 7-of-11 from the field, and he had two thunderous dunks of the ilk that have characterized a lot of his Maryland career. When Layman's shot goes in, his stroke looks especially pure, and it has rarely looked more pristine than it did here.

"If I wanted one guy to have a great night tonight, I wanted it to be Jake, and it couldn't have gone much better," Turgeon said. "Every shot barely hit the net. He was on fire."

Maryland hasn't done a whole lot of blowing teams out this season. The Terps have regularly underachieved against mediocre competition, and under such circumstances, Turgeon wouldn't have been able to get Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon off the floor with a hair more than two minutes to play. But this was a different circumstance, so Layman got the kind of moment his team wanted him to have.

"It kind of hit me that last time I got subbed out. I was a little emotional," he said. "I was very happy."

College is a pretty quick time. I'll confess some personal nostalgia at Layman's night. I arrived Maryland at the same time he did, and seeing the massive transformation in Layman's game over time is a sort of metaphor for the college experience in general. This isn't a point lost on the player himself.

"It's gone by so fast. I feel like just yesterday, I was playing with Alex Len at the NIT," Layman said. "And now I'm here."

All that's left to learn is where he'll be next.