COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland will celebrate its seniors before Thursday's game against Illinois, including one player who head coach Mark Turgeon proudly points out was loyal to the program during the most trying time of his tenure, Jake Layman.
When five players transferred, Layman told Turgeon that he wanted to stay.
Now, three years later, he is one of the key cogs for a team with hopes to make a run late into March while averaging 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, 37 percent from three, and 82 percent from the line.
"I think he's playing his way maybe into the first round of the NBA Draft," Turgeon said on Wednesday.
"He's really playing well right now, become a complete player, defends really well, he's playing at a great pace, he's scoring on all levels right now, and he's the reason we've won 23 games already -- because this great senior class, but because of Jake."
The improvement defensively is the biggest key.
If someone had told you when he was a freshman that by his senior year he would be the perimeter cornerstone of a team that rankings in the nation's Top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, there would have been skeptics.
Now, he is the most versatile attacker at the top of Maryland's 1-3-1 press and has had a hand in shutting down some of the Big Ten's best scorers including Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff and Nebraska's Shavon Shields.
"He was a specialist when he came here. Now he's a basketball player," Turgeon said. "So that's a good feeling for me but it's all because of how hard he worked."
Layman is currently projected to be selected No. 41 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com. At 6-9, 220 pounds, he has great height for the small forward position at the NBA level, though he played some stretches as a power forward last season.
As the NBA moves toward more small-ball lineups, scouts will likely be impressed by his combination of size and athleticism and his improvement defensively certainly helps his stock -- meaning he can affect games even when he's not scoring.
The best part, as Turgeon pointed out? He is on track to earn his degree in May, which was not always a certainty during his academic career.