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Northwestern women’s basketball player previews 2020-2021: G Laya Hartman

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Hartman can be a major player for the ‘Cats after a quiet freshman season.

It’s that time of year again. Even with football season in full swing the women’s basketball season is right around the corner. To kick off our 2020-2021 coverage of the women’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. Next up is sophomore guard Laya Hartman.

Who she is

Sophomore; guard; 5-foot-11; Okemos, Michigan

Stats

3.3 minutes per game; 0.8 points per game; 0.4 rebounds per game; 0.2 assists per game; .333 FG%, .286 3PT%, .333 FT%

2019-20 review

Hartman was a utility player in her first year and mainly received minutes in decisive wins and toward the end of games. She was highly touted out of high school, coming in as the No. 28 guard in her class. Her combination of size and athleticism should allow her to excel in the Big Ten, but she found herself buried in the rotation last year. With the top-seven in NU’s rotation playing an average 186 of the 200 minutes a game, there wasn’t much opportunity for some of the newer faces to establish themselves. Hartman fell into this category, usually closing out games that NU had already clinched. However, with the loss of Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf, she has the opportunity to play much more this year as a forward.

Strengths

Hartman’s offensive game is predominantly focused off the ball. She will not hold the ball very long, passing it away or getting a shot up quickly. She has excelled in an up-tempo offense, taking most of her shots outside of the paint. Although they didn’t always go in, she has demonstrated the confidence to catch and shoot without hesitation, a skill that should allow the ‘Cats to space the floor when she’s playing.

Hartman combines athleticism and intuition to play stifling defense. Similar to Sydney Wood, she has a large frame and quick feet and plays tight defense on and off the ball, limiting shots and using her speed to beat opponents to the rim. Her instincts are impressive, and she attacks passing lanes aggressively.

Her versatility is a valuable asset for McKeown, as she has the ability to shoot the ball from deep and play an Abi Scheid-like role off the bench, assuming she can raise her shooting percentage. Defensively, she can guard any position from the one to the four. She will likely play alongside another big like Courtney Shaw, but could also be used as the ‘center’ alongside, Wood, Hamilton, Burton and Pulliam. Overall, she will give Northwestern tons of options in adjusting rotations, which could be a significant factor if the season gets condensed.

Weaknesses

Hartman has the confidence to get shots up, but it might be misguided. Although the sample size is small, she shot only 33% last season and was 1-for-3 from the line. As nice is it as to have a catch and shoot threat, Hartman’s quick launch could hold her back if she is unable to raise her shooting percentage.

Her aggression on the defensive end is impressive, but can cause problems in the blizzard zone. She loves to jump passing lanes, perhaps too much. If she falls for a fake or misses a ball, the ‘Cats are left to cover five offensive players in a three-player zone. With that said, she’s got the speed to get back on the ball in an instant, and as she gains more experience, she will make better reads on the defensive side of the ball.

Expectations

While the hopes are extremely high for everyone on the roster to play well this year, Hartman is a prime candidate to breakout. Northwestern will likely use her as the primary wing off of the bench, but she could also play a stretch-four at times too.

The biggest question for Hartman this season will be development. It’s unlikely that she’ll get to play more than 15 minutes on a game-to-game basis. But when she is in the game, she needs to take advantage of the time that she gets. With Pulliam and Hamilton in their senior seasons, the ‘Cats will be short on shooting next season. Showing the ability to consistently hit shots from the midrange and beyond will allow Hartman to stake a claim for a starting spot next season.

Her play is not going to make or break the season, but the coaching staff will give Hartman opportunities to prove herself against Big Ten opponents. If she can take advantage of those opportunities, she could give the ‘Cats a huge boost off the bench, while solidifying the team’s future.