Jake Layman's adjustment to college life in general at Maryland and basketball in particular was a bit more difficult than the other three freshmen who were part of second-year coach Mark Turgeon's first recruiting class.
That he admittedly fell behind in his classwork – to the point where Turgeon benched him for the first half of a recent game for failing to turn in a paper – contributed to the issues he had on the court, the 6-8 forward said Monday.
"I think me getting behind in school, which was a good learning experience for me the first semester, it turned into me not doing well on the court, too," Layman said after practice at Comcast Center. "I think getting that semester over and having a fresh start the second semester will be good."
Layman also hopes that his performance in last Saturday's 79-50 victory over Delaware State was something of a new beginning to what had been a disappointing start to his career with the Terps. Though his stats were modest – seven points, two rebounds, one steal in 19 minutes – he looked more like the player considered the second-best recruit in Maryland's freshman class.
It started Saturday when Layman hit a 15-footer along the baseline on his first shot less than two minutes after coming in the game. Late in the half, shortly after coming in for a second time, Layman followed a miss by Charles Mitchell with a two-hand dunk and finished the half with a layup on a feed from Logan Aronhalt. It didn't even matter that he missed all three shots in the second half.
Asked what hitting his first shot meant, Layman -- who had missed 10 of his last 11 and 24 of 35 for the season -- smiled.
"It definitely helped with my confidence, hitting that shot," he said. "I think I'm going to start looking for my offense a little more, instead of just passing and not moving too much. I think I'm going to start moving more, cutting more and I think I'll get more open looks."
As for the dunk, Layman said with an even bigger smile, "That felt so good."
Said Turgeon, "Jake knows where he's at with his game right now and what he needs to do and he's realistic. I'm sure he wants more and he's disappointed about the way it started. The thing we talk to Jake about is just getting better every day. Four years is a long time. We're just 11 or 12 games into his career. Hopefully he'll have 130 games or something like that. He got better today [at practice]. I expect Jake to really help us."
Layman also knows that he has looked lost – and a bit soft – defensively, something Turgeon and his assistants have been on him about even more than his offense.
"I don't mind criticism, I like it. If they tell me something to do, I'll correct it," Layman said. "Defense is definitely one thing I really want to work on. I worked with Coach [Scott] Spinelli and [former Terp and current graduate assistant] Eric Hayes on working on getting over screens, on the ball defense."
Turgeon said that he thought going home to his family over Christmas helped Layman, whose parents were college athletes at the University of Maine.
"It really got me to sit down and think, 'What kind of player do I want to be?," Layman said. "Do I want to be the kind of player who makes a mistake and hangs my head, or do I want to be strong and fight the whole game? Definitely after break I've come in with a new mindset. I'm not really thinking about the mistakes I make on one end and doing more on the other end. If I make a mistake, keep playing and play my game."