Originally posted on www.dailyorange.com by Jesse Dougherty
Claire and Tim Layman tried to convince their son Jake to focus on their respective sports.
Tim played baseball at Maine and Claire played basketball there, too. They knew their son had the ability to play either game at a high level. It was only a matter of time until he chose one.
“She coached me a lot and was a big part of my basketball world,” Jake Layman said, “and then there was my dad saying I should play baseball.”
Layman said he didn’t need to make a decision while growing up. Baseball and basketball were played in different seasons.
“But as I got older,” Layman said, “I realized basketball was my calling.”
Layman’s decision led him to run alongside some of the country’s best players in his age group, something a bat and glove could have never done.
Entering his second year with Maryland, Layman is wading into the prime of his collegiate career. After averaging 5.5 points and starting 17 games last season, the sophomore forward will have an increased role with the Terrapins this season and is certain his familiarity with high-level competition has prepared him for it.
“My confidence level is as high as it’s ever been right now,” Layman said, “and I’m feeling good about it.”
It was just an intra-squad scrimmage, but the U-17 Boston Amateur Basketball Club was playing at full speed.
A consensus top AAU team in the country, BABC was playing in a tournament in Los Angeles and tuning up before the start. Playing defense in the half court, Layman was reminded of how good the team was.
When a guard drove into the lane, Layman stepped up to stop the penetration. The guard dished the ball and when Layman turned, another teammate, Nerlens Noel, dunked over him.
“Yeah, he just dunked on me,” Layman said laughing. “We had a really good team.”
When Layman was a sophomore in high school, his mother Claire, a pragmatist, wanted to gauge how good her son was. She went to Leo Papile, the coach and founder of BABC and former senior director of basketball operations with the Boston Celtics, to see if there was a spot on his team.
Impressed, Papile made Layman a role player on a star-studded squad.
“His mom wanted to know if her son could really play and he could,” Papile said. “He started out on the bottom of the pile.”
That team ended up winning the 10th-grade national championship. By the end of the year, Layman was in the rotation off the bench.
With his sights set on playing Division I basketball, Layman embraced the role. While he shined at King Philip Regional (Mass.) High School, it was with Papile and BABC where he made his name.
That was where he honed his physical gifts and discovered his natural scoring touch. At the time, Layman was 6 feet 8 inches and 205 pounds, but he was still growing throughout high school and had to deliberately refine his skills to keep up with his physical development.
And when he did that, he earned a spot on another loaded roster — the U.S. U-18 national team.
In the summer before his freshman season at Maryland, Layman traveled with that team to the FIBA U-18 championship in Brazil.
Led by Florida head coach Billy Donovan, the United States earned a gold medal after a 5-0 finish. Layman, once again, came off the bench. He played 12.2 minutes per game and averaged 7.6 points, the fifth most on the team.
“There was a ton of great players that I had all heard of before,” Layman said, “and playing with them that summer prepared me for anything I’d face at the next level.”
A week before the 2013 season opened, Papile created a hypothetical situation where he pondered Layman’s NBA potential. If Layman were European, Papile said, he would have been drafted in the first round right out of high school.
In his freshman season, he was only overtly impressive in flashes. But he worked all summer on his shooting stroke and ball handling, hoping to become more than just the role player he’s always been.
“He was a little rocky last year, but when he heated up, he really could stroke it in games,” Maryland guard Nick Faust said during the Atlantic Coast Conference media day.
“(Now) he’s just been stroking. So we just try to get him off screens and let him shoot.”
Outside of high school basketball, Layman was always a bench player. It didn’t matter that some of the nation’s best programs wanted him. He played sparingly for the U.S. U18 team and never started for BABC.
But now he’s nestling into a starting role with the Terrapins, and there’s no question that he chose the right sport.
“Jake’s best days are ahead of him,” Papile said. “Here’s a guy with a sparkling basketball resume. Maryland has something going for it with him.”
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