As years of observation have shown, summer basketball is not the time for bold predictions. What happens in July doesn’t always translate to December. Still, it’s a good time to get a feel for individual and team progression, while also stealing a glimpse at the new guys.
Whether it happens next season or during his junior year, there appears to be little doubt Jake Layman's poised to blossom into a star.
A few individual observations from watching the team play ball earlier this week at Comcast Center:
Jake Layman has ‘It’… Given his recruiting pedigree and strong freshman season, it’s not groundbreaking news that Layman is a promising player. But there are times when you can sense a player is transitioning into the next phase physically, and this was one of them.
It’s not so much that Layman was dominating. He just looked bigger, more aggressive and confident. On several occasions, he flashed to the hoop and snared offensive rebounds to the surprise of teammates who thought they’d established position. On another, he drove to the hoop and slung a pretty last-second dish to Charles Mitchell for an open lay-up.
Despite being the second-longest player on the court after Damonte Dodd, Layman was moving like a guard. He’ll need to continue getting stronger and improving ballhandling, so it may be another season before he blossoms into stardom. Whether now or later, though, it appears inevitable.
Nick Faust could be the forgotten man... In a good way. While much of the pre-season attention will be focused on Dez Wells and others, Faust could be the surprise star of next season. His body has filled out – listed at 205 pounds last season, he looks closer to 220 now – and he hasn’t lost any explosiveness. Most guards need at least a bit of a running start to dunk; Faust looks like he could do so off of a drop-step, like a post player does.
I didn’t see him shoot a lot of jumpshots, and that remains the question mark: can he make them consistently enough to open up driving lanes. But his length, broad shoulders and effortless leaping ability made him the most impressive athlete on the court.
Shaquille Cleare’s head and body have not shrunken in half … Cleare looked to be in great shape. His work ethic, including rigorous, daily unsupervised cardio workouts, has been lauded by everyone. But we’ll just have to chalk up that Instagram photo as some sort of glitch. He looks like the same burly player, though he’s certainly trimmed the baby fat and has shed more than 30 pounds since arriving as a freshman.
Roddy Peters’ promise is evident … It may be another year before Peters has transitioned into the college game mentally. Right now, alongside a bunch of veterans and second-year player, he stands out for his youngish appearance. But he doesn’t look out of place skill-wise, and his length will eventually make him a dynamic player. He had little trouble shooting over Dez Wells, who appears to be an inch and change shorter than Peters.
“I think he’s a pro if he stays focused,” one long-time local hoops scout told me yesterday,
Damonte Dodd will play next season …Whether that means seven minutes per game or 20, Dodd’s body and athleticism puts him in a class of his own on Maryland’s roster. He’s the tallest player on the court, with never-ending arms and solid hops. Dodd, like Peters, has the look of a young puppy. His movements still aren’t as fluid as you’d like. But he was the one guy on the court who looked like a classic, NBA-style big man body-wise. He could be the best shot-blocker on the team next season.
Evan Smotrycz can shoot it ... Shocker, right? Smotrycz isn't as athletic or thick as Maryland's other big guys. Offensively, he could conceivably become more of a three than a power forward, while Layman works closer to the basket. But he's the sort of player who's release rarely varies -- and who rarely misses by much. He'll be much-needed following Logan Aronhalt's graduation.
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