Maryland forward Jake Layman shoots to break slump

When Jake Layman woke up last Wednesday morning in Chapel Hill, N.C., his cell phone was filled with text messages from several of his Maryland teammates, encouraging the senior co-captain to forget the previous night's game against North Carolina.

Though he had grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and played decent defense against explosive Tar Heels wing Justin Jackson, Layman's disappointment lingered over his offensive performance: four points on 1 of 5 shooting, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, in an 89-81 loss.


On a long bus ride back to campus later that day — the team's return flight had been grounded by heavy fog — Layman had plenty of time to think about what he could have done differently to prevent then-No. 2 Maryland's first loss of the season.

"I feel me going through this slump, I learned a lot from it," Layman said Monday. "It's to not worry about points, I just try to just go out there and play, and play with confidence, play the game the way I know how to, and I think I'm starting to do that."

It will be important for Layman to do that Tuesday, when No. 6 Maryland (7-1) plays unranked Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. It will be Layman's second visit to the iconic venue; he played there in an NIT semifinal loss to Iowa three seasons ago.

"It still very early in the season, it would be a great win for us against a great team," said Layman, who as a sophomore scored 13 points against the Huskies at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., to open the 2013-14 season.

Layman didn't blame his shooting slump on moving back to the wing after playing mostly inside last season. Nor will he point to the emergence of transfers Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon, who have usurped his potential role as Maryland's second offensive option behind sophomore point guard Melo Trimble.

The slump, during which Layman made 13 of 34 shots overall and 4 of 18 3-point attempts in a five-game stretch, was his own doing.

"I think that's a part of me maturing, to be able to go through that and really be able to move on from it and not think about what happened in the past," he said.

It was not just his shooting that bothered Layman, the only four-year member of the team.


After tying his season-high with 16 points in Friday's 96-55 demolition of Saint Francis (Pa.), Layman said he was "more mad at myself, being a senior and a leader on this team, I need to play better in all aspects of the game, not just scoring-wise. I was mad at myself for the way that I played."

Layman felt much better during and after Maryland's biggest romp in five years. He made his first five shots, including three 3-point shots, and finished the game 5-for-7 overall, 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. Layman also had three blocked shots.

Asked if he had done anything differently, Layman said: "No, I think I've been shooting the ball the same way. I think everyone goes through cycles of missed shots ... As a shooter, you've got to keep shooting, no matter what."

That is the advice many gave him after the North Carolina game, including former Terps star Juan Dixon. According to Layman, Dixon told him that he went though similar patches of poor shooting during his legendary career.

"He's been playing the game for a long time, and he's been through a shooting slump before or two," Layman said. "He told me to keep shooting."

It was the type of shot Layman tried first that seemed to turn him around against the Red Flash. It came on Maryland's first possession, when his defender jumped out to guard the outside shot and Layman blew by for an easy layup.


Layman understood the significance of the drive, something that coach Mark Turgeon and others have been on Layman to do more since his freshman year.

"It's not something I necessarily have to think about," Layman said. "I think for me I need to go out there and play the way I know how to play and I'll be fine. But yeah, I think driving to the basket needs to be a bigger part of my game."

Turgeon said it was a team effort to "get Jake going" against St. Francis.

"Our whole team took that approach early, we ran a play for Jake early and he made a good decision, he went in and shot a layup instead of a jump shot to start the St. Francis game, and that got him going, he hit a couple of threes," Turgeon said Monday. "Now it's up to him to keep himself in that groove."

Now comes what has sometimes been difficult for Layman — putting two good performances together in a row.

As a freshman, he scored a then-career-high 20 points to go along with eight rebounds during a win over Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener. He totaled nine points in the next four games, including road losses at Miami and North Carolina, where he was scoreless.

As a sophomore, Layman scored a career-high 27 points in a win over Morgan State at home, only to shoot 1-for-9, including 0 for 5 on 3-point attempts, in a 16-point blowout loss at Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Layman seemingly turned the corner last season, when he scored in double figures in 19 of Maryland's first 20 games, including a 21-point, 11-rebound, three-steal performance on the road at Oklahoma State and a 23-point, 12-rebound game at home against Michigan State.

A combination of his body wearing down and his confidence sagging contributed to Layman finishing the season quietly, including taking just one shot from the field and finishing with four points in the team's lone NCAA tournament win against Valparaiso.

After adding 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, Layman started the season confidently by leading the Terps in scoring the first two games, averaging 15.5 points and shooting 11-for-19 from the field.

Then came the slump, which dropped Layman's 3-point shooting to 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) this season, below the career-low mark of 29.9 percent he set as a freshman.

"I think when my shot's not falling, I need to have other ways to score, especially when we're struggling a little bit," Layman said.

Turgeon said Monday he had not lost faith in Layman.

"It's just him getting comfortable again" on the wing, Turgeon said. "He's putting too much pressure on himself, he needs to relax and everyone's got to quit talking about it and let the kid be a kid.

"It happens in college basketball. I'm not worried in him at all. He has a great attitude. We all believe in him 100 percent. I'd rather him start slow and finish strong as the season goes on."