- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2012

Most days after practice, Maryland forward Jake Layman will linger to work with assistants Scott Spinelli and Eric Hayes on getting over screens and on-ball defense. At other times, he’ll put up extra shots with teammates. 

At times, he’ll absorb a lot of direction in very little time, either in those sessions or other discussions with coaches. And his willingness to take so much in even as he’s struggled early in his freshman season catches the eye of veteran teammates.

“He’s very open to criticism,” guard Pe’Shon Howard said. “Every day after the coaches are getting on him, he doesn’t mind staying after and doing the extra work. He’s really positive even though they’re really on him, but it’s only because everyone sees his potential and just knows how good he can be. Just the fact he’s so receptive to it is really refreshing.”

Layman’s early returns — nightly averages of 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 13.9 minutes — are not overwhelming. Yet his acknowledgment there is much progress to be made is a welcome sign for the Terrapins (11-1), who complete nonconference play Tuesday against IUPUI (6-11) at Comcast Center.

So, too, was a seven-point performance in Saturday’s defeat of Delaware State, a step forward for a player who looked tentative for so much of Maryland’s early schedule.

“I’ve come in with a new mindset,” Layman said of his return to College Park after returning home for Christmas break. “I’m not really thinking about my mistakes that I make on one end and doing more mistakes on the other. If I make a mistake, just forget about it and keep playing.”

It’s sound self-analysis for a player who arrived on campus with a little extra attention after playing for the American under-18 national team over the summer but has looked out of sorts on several occasions early in his career.

Some of it (and maybe a lot of it) can be ascribed to simply adjusting to the pace of college basketball. Layman acknowledges he’s played passively at times. And he also was the last of the scholarship freshmen to arrive on campus because of his national team commitments, leaving him a little behind initially in understanding the Terps’ offensive and defensive principles.

Coach Mark Turgeon said he discussed the situation with Layman’s parents just before the holiday break. His message: Stay positive.

“I think going home helped him a lot,” Turgeon said. “Jake knows where he is with his game and what he needs to do, and he’s realistic. If you ask him, I’m sure he wants more and isn’t happy with the way he started. The thing is, just get better every day. Four years is a long time. We’re just 12 games in. Hopefully, he’ll have 130 games or something like that. He’s just getting started.”

So are the Terps, who are not even halfway through their regular-season schedule. Turgeon has yet to settle on a rotation and suggested last week he might not for some time, if at all.

It still leaves an opening for Layman to further establish himself, and Turgeon reiterated Monday he believes Layman can still help this season. For his part, Layman used the time away for some self-reflection in the hopes he can make a difference moving forward as a freshman.

“It really got me to sit down and think [about] what kind of player I want to be,” Layman said. “Do I want to be the one that makes a mistake and really hangs my head or do I want to be strong and fight the whole game?”

While Layman still has room to grow defensively, he offered a look at his athleticism when he soared in for a dunk late in the first half of Saturday’s rout. It was the sort of play he had rarely shown in games even if teammates saw it on a regular basis.

That game (and that play, especially) could provide a spark for Layman, who also dealt with some academic issues in recent months.

“I think me getting behind in school, which is a good learning experience for me, it kind of turned into me not doing well on the court, too,” Layman said. “I think getting that first semester over with and having a fresh start in the second semester is going to be good.”

Note: Forward Charles Mitchell was named the ACC’s rookie of the week. The freshman had 19 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s victory. Turgeon said he was considering a lineup change for Tuesday, one based more on recent practice performance than Saturday’s game.

“I’ll sleep on it and decide,” Turgeon said. “I have a good feel for what lineup is our best lineup, what lineup is our best defensive lineup. I think we’ve gotten a feel for that. The thing that’s nice is a lot of guys have gotten better — across the board.”

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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