Believe it or not, we’re less than a week away from basketball season. That’s right, both men’s and women’s basketball games are right around the corner. To kick off our coverage of the 2021-22 coverage of the women’s team, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. As opening day inches closer, the spotlight shifts to junior Laya Hartman, a guard from Okemos, Michigan.
Who she is
Junior; 5-foot-11, Okemos, Mich.; No. 13 ranked guard in graduating class
6.0 minutes per game; 2.1 points per game; 0.2 assists per game; 1.2 rebounds per game; 0.2 steals per game, 53.3 FG%; 50.0 3P%; 33.3 FT%.
Laya Hartman, a highly-touted recruit for the Wildcats heading into the 2019-20 carousel, was a prospective candidate to fill the holes left by Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf’s departures after her freshman season. Unfortunately, she remained quiet her sophomore year due to a severe leg injury that kept her on the bottom rungs of Joe McKeown’s rotation. A consistent closer when she did play, Hartman appeared in nine games between mid-December and late January. The guard had little opportunity in her 54 minutes of total playing time to boost her relatively small stat-line, but she may have a chance to up her playing time this season as she moves back to full strength with two-plus years of D1 experience on a young squad.
The junior’s play hasn’t given much away in terms of any new strengths she’s developed over the past two years, so there isn’t much to talk about. Nonetheless, her minutes per game still doubled from three to six despite her season-ending injury, and she attempted a field-goal just about every three-and-a-half minutes of play. She made over 50 percent of her shots and collected 11 total rebounds, nine of which were on the defensive end. Though it’s difficult to analyze such a small sample size, Hartman continued to display confidence off the bench and wasn’t afraid to take shots from anywhere on the court — a critical aspect of her play that will be major for an offense that oftentimes struggled to score last season.
Again, it’s difficult to judge the junior without significant statistics to complement her name. But what could be said is that her offseason work and pre-season performance wasn’t enough to put her in McKeown’s regular rotation last year, even before her injury. Behind Veronica Burton and Jordan Hamilton out of the back, Lauryn Satterwhite and Sydney Wood still preceded Hartman, even though Burton herself expected Hartman to have a breakout season. Now, with the added pressure of two sophomores and a top 10 recruiting class behind her, Hartman definitely will have to compete for significant playing time.
With the expectation that Hartman will be healthy, there is again the possibility of the guard having a breakout year. What Northwestern really needed last season was a consistent scorer to go alongside Burton and Lindsay Pulliam. Now, with Pulliam gone, Burton will need players like Hartman to step up and finish shots from both behind and within the arc. Hartman’s confidence will benefit her if she can manage to pair it efficient shooting, and her natural athleticism and defensive ability will work into her play too. If McKeown takes the same approach with the junior as he did last season before her injury, allowing her to warm up by giving her more and more minutes each game, Hartman could potentially play an integral role in this Wildcat team’s late and postseason prospects.