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Layman needs to channel Aggressive Jake for the Terps to have success

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COLLEGE PARK — There have been two Jake Laymans playing for the Maryland men's basketball team this season.

The one who showed up for most of the first 13 games reappeared against Pittsburgh on Saturday night at Comcast Center. That Layman — call him Aggressive Jake — hit his first two shots, finished 7 of 12 overall and scored 18 points with five rebounds, three steals and two blocks in an 83-79 loss to the Panthers.

Then there's Passive Jake, who missed his first two shots and 6 of 8 overall in the Terps' previous game at North Carolina State to prolong a slump in which he missed 34 of 49 overall.

While the difference in Layman's dual basketball personalities does not always translate to wins or losses for the Terps, there's a better chance that Maryland (11-9, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) can beat Miami (11-10, 2-5) Wednesday if the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward comes out taking — and making — his shot.

"I've just got to stay focused and just keep being aggressive, which I haven't been doing," Layman said after Saturday's game, only his second scoring in double figures during the past seven after starting the season in double figures in 11 of the first 13. "Tonight, I kept being aggressive, trying to make drives and opportunities for my teammates. I think I did that pretty well."

Asked if making shots early in a game helps his confidence to keep shooting, Layman said, "It's not confidence, it's just knowing when to pick the right spots in the right time to shoot it and when not to shoot it. I'm getting better at that."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon believes there's a direct correlation between Layman making shots early and how aggressively he plays the rest of the game.

"They probably play into each other," Turgeon said Tuesday after practice."I don't say it to many players, but I say it to Jake, he's got to be a little more selfish on offense. He needs to be aggressive for us to be successful offensively."

Layman is either underutilized in Maryland's offense or does not work hard enough to get involved. According to Kenpom.com, Layman finishes a Maryland possession with either a shot or a turnover just 17.2 percent of the time. Of Maryland's regulars, only sophomore center Shaquille Cleare is less directly involved (13.7 percent).

It's remarkable that Layman has more than doubled his scoring average (from 5.5 points as a freshman to 12.5 points this season) despite being just marginally more involved this year than he was last season (16.6 percent).

To illustrate the growth of his overall game, he ranks second on the team in scoring behind junior guard Dez Wells. Layman leads the Terps in blocked shots (22) and 3-point shots made and taken (40 of 105), he's tied for second in steals (19) and ranks third in rebounding (5.2).

While Turgeon said Layman has improved his game at both ends of the court, Layman said, "I think it's been up and down. But overall it's been a lot better than last year because I have a much bigger role. I have to step up and start playing a little better right now."

Much of Layman's success — and Maryland's — hinges on his recognition of what is happening around him. At the suggestion of his parents, Turgeon and his staff have worked hard at using video to help Layman understand what is being asked of him.

Tim Layman, who played college baseball, said he often used to tape his son pitching to show him flaws in his mechanics.

"Jake is a very visual learner," the elder Layman said Monday. "It's OK to say to Jake to be more aggressive, but I'm not sure that's enough."

Said Turgeon, "I think he's one of those guys where once he learns how to do it, he's good at it. Some guys you can talk about it and they'll get it. Other guys you can show them on the court and they'll get it and some guys you've got to show it on the court and show them on film."

Tim Layman said his own communication with the second oldest of his five sons — sometimes with simple text message — has less to do with his statistics and more about "his passion, his intensity and his love for the game."

His father believes he is still growing as a player.

"I think he has another level to his game. He just needs to get better," Tim Layman said. "He's done it in snapshots right now, but he has a hard time putting it together for a full game."

Much of it has to do with Layman accepting the fact that he is one of Maryland's best players, the one with the potential skill set that has already attracted interest from a number of NBA teams.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have sent scouts to watch Layman and recently called the principal of King Philip Regional High in Wrentham, Mass., to inquire about the school's former star.

"I don't think about that at all at this point," Layman said about the NBA. "At this point, I feel like I've just got to keep working on my game and just getting better and better every day."

Though Tim Layman calls his son "quietly confident," the player still seems to wrestle between the two Jakes on the court.

"It's just changing my mentality on the court, knowing for me to get my shots I'm going to have to be aggressive," Layman said. "If I'm just being lazy and kind of a stand-still player, I'm not going to be successful."

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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