COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has said that Jake Layman came to Maryland as a three-point specialist and he’s leaving as a basketball player, a fact that shines a light on his dedication to evolving on the court -- often in the face of outside criticism.
But that basketball player was honored on Senior Night before Thursday’s game against Illinois, raising his framed jersey above his head at center court, surrounded by his family, to a round of applause from the crowd at XFINITY Center before dropping 18 points on the Illini in a blowout 81-55 victory in College Park.
He got his moment, too. With Maryland having the game in hand late, he was able to be substituted for in the final minutes to get a last send-off from the home crowd. When he reached the sidelines, he embraced Turgeon on his way to the bench.
“He just said that he’s proud of me and he’s happy for me that it ended like it did tonight,” Layman recalled after the game. “It was a little emotional.”
Aside from noting the strides he has taken in his development as a basketball player, Turgeon has often described Layman most prominently as loyal. When five players transferred out of the program after the 2013-14 season, Layman told Turgeon that he intended to stay and see things through.
After an unexpected NCAA tournament berth last season, these Terrapins have the pure talent to make a run in March and Layman is one of the biggest reasons why.
“You’re not supposed to play favorites with your players or your kids but he’s one of my all-time favorites because he stuck with me, stuck with the program, stuck with Maryland Basketball,” Turgeon said.
"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. I mean, every shot barely hit the net. He was on fire, so it was great to see."
If, during his freshman season, it had been said that by his senior year he would be the defensive cornerstone of a team with high hopes in March, there likely would have been some funny looks in the room. He just was not that type of player then.
But he has worked on his foot speed and his feel for the game on both ends of the floor to the point now that he is not only the attacker at the top of Maryland’s 1-3-1 press, but also its best and most versatile perimeter defender and the stretch power forward who could hold the key to a late offensive resurgence.
And he could have as much to do with a late tournament run as any other player on the roster.