Jake Layman’s road to becoming a force off the bench for the Trail Blazers has been long and quiet.
His first two seasons with the team he started only two games, shooting just 29.4 percent from the field and averaging 1.6 points in the 70 total games he played.
But since Jan. 4, he has averaged double-figure minutes in all 13 games his team has played, shooting 54.5 percent from the field and averaging 11.3 points per game. He’s had a 20-point game, an 18-point game and a 20-point quarter.
Pretty good for a guy who earlier in the season sat through 11 games in which he did not play at all. And a guy who was taken in the second round (47th overall pick) in the 2016 draft.
Layman never lost faith during his first two and a half seasons in the league. Nor did he lose his work ethic.
“I wouldn’t say I expected this, but I knew my ability,” he said after Monday’s practice. “I knew what I was capable of. I’ve put the hard work in and it’s paying off now.
“The past two years, during the season, not playing but maintaining my focus even when I’m not playing. It’s easy to get in that mindset when you’re not playing: to just chill and relax and just get by.
“The coaches have done a great job with me, keeping my focus. I’m always getting in extra workouts, getting work on game days.”
Layman is just one example of the solid job President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has done in the second round of the draft.
When the Trail Blazers see a player they like – one they believe may have first-round talent – slide into the second round, they get proactive in pursuit of that player.
They don’t wait to see if that player slides all the way to their pick, they combine future second-round picks and cash to attempt to move into a spot where they can get him.
They did it with Layman, shipping the Magic their second round pick in this year’s draft along with a little more than a million bucks – in a year when the previous regime had left them with no first or second-round picks.
“We had identified Jake as a player with first-round talent,” Olshey said. “We pursued picks as soon as the second round began, in order to acquire him.”
Olshey got Allen Crabbe in the same manner but his biggest second-round coup could turn out to be Gary Trent Jr., whom he got from Sacramento as the 37th pick, in a trade for two second-round choices.
Trent is currently tearing up the G-League, leading the league in scoring at 31 points per game, shooting 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and 85 percent from the foul line. He was the first player in G-League history to score 124 points in his first four games.
Layman wasn’t a big-time scorer in college at Maryland and not as well known as Trent, but he was an athletic player who made shots – the prototypical NBA player these days. And he is still looking to improve.
“I need to get better with my overall defense,” he said. “And on offense I need to get better with my playmaking.”
A quiet sort with the media, Layman swears he’s more outgoing with teammates than when there’s a camera in his face. But he leads a quiet life.
“I do my own thing when basketball’s over,” he said. “I go home with my dog and my fiancé (they will be married this summer) and just chill.”
Oh, and one more thing. That nickname.
“You can call me anything you want, but not ‘Jake the Snake,’” he said.
And since he played for the Maryland Terrapins, what about “Flying Turtle?”
“That would be OK,” he said.