Former Terp Layman Shines in NBA Summer League

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LAS VEGAS - Jake Layman has good reason to feel tired.  Entering his second year with the Portland Trail Blazers, the former four-year letterman and two-time All-Big Ten standout under Mark Turgeon, concluded Las Vegas Summer League team play earlier this week by leading his team to the championship game and a runner-up finish.

Finally able to take a deep breath after playing eight games in a little over two weeks and five games in six nights, Layman has settled in his new home of Portland for a two-week break before heading to Tim Grgurich Big Man Camp in Las Vegas the first week of August.

A fan-favorite and one of Turgeon's all-time favorite players because of his team-first mentality and fierce loyalty to the Maryland basketball program -- Layman showcased his strengths and an aggressive approach during his eight-game stint in Vegas that pleased the Portland coaching staff.

"I was really excited with the steps that I made this summer," Layman said on the phone from his home in Portland. "I was able to find the right spots to be aggressive. My shot felt good - even in spots if it was not falling. Most importantly, I was really happy with my defense.  I was able to guard the ball well and come of strong and defend the ball screen. If I want to get more time on the court this season, my coaches want to see progress defensively.  I was able to show them I could be successful guarding my defender on the ball."

In his 2016 Vegas Summer League debut, Layman attempted just 40 field goal attempts in five games as opposed to the 109 shots he took the past two weeks.  The Wrentham, Mass., native laughed when he was told Turgeon quipped on how he never would have thought Layman would have ever taken 24 shots in a single game. 

But Layman did just that, leading Portland with 23 points in a 94-87 win over the San Antonio Spurs on July 15.

"I felt really good," Layman said after averaging 13.8 points per game and recording 20 or more points in three contests over the summer session. "I had some very good teammates. It was a high character team."

 Since the NBA season concluded for the Trail Blazers after a first round playoff exit to the eventually NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Layman has been working out in Portland and has had a "lasar focus" on working and developing his overall game. 

"I have really focused on ball-handling, bringing up the ball and being a facilitator after securing a rebound. Also attacking and finishing at the rim and coming off ball screens," Layman shared. "And I am always working on my shot and shooting in the gym."

All of the additional work paid dividends in Summer League as Layman led the team in minutes per game (28.4) and played an integral part in Portland winning four of its last five games before losing to the Summer League champion Los Angeles Lakers last Monday evening in which Layman had 21 points and connected on 5-of-8 three-point field goal attempts.

"I was happy to be on the court," Layman said. "It had been a while since I played (nearly) 30 minutes per game -- maybe not since spending time in the D-League (NBA Developmental League - now called the G-League) last season. It was tough because we had four guys get hurt early in Summer League and we did not have a deep bench. But it was fun to see everyone push through and experience success."

During his limited down time in Las Vegas, Layman recently visited with good friend and former teammate Melo Trimble, who was playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The affable and popular Layman finished his decorated Terp career with more than 1,400 points as he led Maryland to consecutive NCAA appearances and their first Sweet 16 in 13 years as a senior.

So you could imagine his disappointment that his ambitious NBA schedule did not allow him to visit College Park last season. He is, however, hopeful to return to XFINITY Center this season and reconnect with his Maryland family. 

To keep connected, Layman talks or texts daily with his best friend - rising junior guard Andrew Terrell. The duo will also FaceTime when their schedule permits.  Layman said he always hears from Turgeon prior to a big game or throughout summer league with either a call or a text message. He appreciates the support of his former coach and is excited about the upcoming Terps season.

"I really came away impressed with the team last season," Layman said. "Coach Turgeon did a great job. The three sophomores (Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson) are really talented. And Andrew (Terrell) keeps telling me great things about the incoming freshmen."

As for his "rookie" season in Portland, Layman lauded his teammates - singling out almost all of them for helping him "learn to be a pro both on and off the court" during his first season.  

Said Layman: "You watch how they handle themselves, how they practice and prepare and you see why they are successful at the highest level."

For now, Layman will spend time with his girlfriend, Jasmine, and their two dogs - Tiny, a jack russell and eskimo collie mix who was a regular at XFINITY Center in the training room Layman's senior season, and Penny, a jack russell and border collie mix who was a recent addition to the Layman family less than a month ago. Layman said his parents, Tim and Claire, spent a few weeks in Portland with him at the end of the NBA season in April. The family enjoys the area and Layman sincerely appreciates the support of his new team -- the Trail Blazers organization. While carving out his new journey, Layman gets updates about his two younger brothers who are following in his footsteps and playing college basketball as well: Jimmy, a rising senior guard at Division III Keene State College in New Hampshire and Ryan, a freshman small forward at Bryant College.

His other brothers that he created a bond with at Maryland are now pursuing their passions and dreams as well.

"It is great to see my teammates graduating from school, playing in the NBA or pursuing their careers overseas," Layman said. "It is an exciting time for all of us, but I really do miss and love Maryland."