|King Philip senior Jake Layman, shooting during team practice last week, has developed into one of the top players in the region. (Rose Lincoln for The Boston Globe)|
Winning on the outside for KP
6’8’’ Layman can do it all on court
Jake Layman has always wanted to play guard, but there was one physical element holding him back. He was too tall.
As a youngster, he was often the tallest player in the gym. So it was only logical for his youth coaches to play him at forward or center.
“I always wanted to play on the outside,’’ said Layman, a junior at King Philip Regional in Wrentham. “But me being the tallest, my coaches always put me down low.’’
It wasn’t until he reached the seventh grade that he received his first chance to play out on the perimeter, at least part-time, beginning a transformation that neither he nor his coaches would regret.
The 6-foot-8, and 185-pound Layman is now one of the most skilled players in the state. He can dribble like a point guard, score like a shooting guard, and use his size to rebound like a center. Already he has received scholarship offers to play at Boston College, Providence College, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And he is the primary reason that King Philip will make a serious run at the state tournament this season after finishing 5-13 last year.
“He’s so versatile it allows us to move players around like a chess game,’’ said King Philip coach Sean McInnis. “At times he’ll be in the post. At times he’ll play some point guard. At times he’ll play on the outside. Everything depends on the matchups and the game situations. Some games he’ll be used in multiple roles, but Jake welcomes and embraces those times and he can thrive in those times.’’
Mike Marra, who coached Layman at Mass Premier Courts in Foxborough, began to encourage the young player to develop his guard skills as a middle schooler. But it was not until last summer that he was able to play guard full-time. In his first full season out on the perimeter, Layman helped the Under-16 Boston Athletic Basketball Club to a 56-1 record and an AAU national championship.
Only after years of hard work did he have the confidence to compete with some of the nation’s best guards, as he did on the AAU circuit.
He arrived at King Philip as a lanky 6-foot-4 freshman, still working to develop a perimeter player’s skill set.
“I wouldn’t say he was the most polished ball-handler,’’ said McInnis, now in his third season as head coach. “He was young. He had to improve in certain areas, but you could tell he had tremendous upside for playing on the outside.’’
Since his freshman season, Layman worked diligently to be the player he wanted to be — as opposed to a player whose size dictated his style. He worked out on his own at the Franklin YMCA and honed his outside shot during pickup games at the high school.
He worked on ball-handling drills that few post players his size would ever try. He dribbled two balls at a time, weaved between cones, and practiced in-and-out dribbles and cross-overs — all with one purpose in mind.
“To be a complete, all-around player,’’ said Layman, who last summer considered following the lead of a number of his BABC teammates and going to prep school. Ultimately, he decided he wanted to be back at KP, with his friends, and make a run at the tournament.
“I want to be able to go by guys on the outside, and pound them on the inside.’’
A two-time Hockomock League all-star, Layman averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game last season. After a summer of hard work, he’ll be a greater concern for KP foes this season.
“He’s a matchup problem,’’ said Franklin coach Dean O’Connor, whose team faces KP on Friday. “You just try to get the ball out of his hands and make other players make plays. But the thing about Jake is he’s so big that if you double-team him, you will get the ball out of his hands, but he’s big enough to throw over you and make a good play.’’
For King Philip to attain its goal of securing an MIAA tournament berth, Layman knows he’ll need help from teammates — including a collection of seniors who have never been to the tournament and once endured a 0-20 season.
Seniors 6-5 Alec May, also a football standout; Layman’s brother, 6-7 Connor; and 6-5 Tim Sheehan provide plenty of size underneath. Harry Washington, a 6-2 senior, is a backcourt mainstay.
Even though King Philip carries an experienced roster with good size, the focus of the Warriors’ opponents will be squarely on Layman’s shoulders. But now that he’s played on a national stage, and in front of Division 1 college coaches, the pressure doesn’t bother him.
“I think he actually likes [the pressure] a lot,’’ said Layman’s brother. “He likes being challenged.’’
After a summer of proving himself as a Division 1-caliber guard, Layman’s biggest challenge might be to rediscover his post skills when King Philip wants to exploit smaller guards in mismatches. As is usually the case with Layman, though, he’s already working on it. His favorite move now is his baseline hook shot.
“We’re all really excited for this season,’’ said Layman. “Just to be a playoff team would be a really big deal around here.’’
Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.