In a pre-season media session, starters Veronica Burton and Courtney Shaw both named Laya Hartman as a player that the team expected to emerge, placing some high expectations on the sophomore guard. After a first year in which she saw just 3.3 minutes of playing time per game, the opportunity opened up for the 5-foot-11 guard to solidify a spot in the rotation. She started off the season on the bench, steadily earning more playing time from 3:57 in the Minnesota game to 11:41 at Wisconsin. Her minutes then fell back down before a severe leg injury ended her season.
The Stats (courtesy of herhoopstats.com)
Trying to draw any conclusions from 15 shot attempts in 54 minutes (not many of which came in close games) would not be a very fruitful task. Theoretically, Hartman’s value to this NU team will come as a 3-and-D wing. McKeown would love to be able to play her alongside Wood and Burton in the backcourt, using her primarily off the ball on the offensive side. Northwestern needs someone who can hit shots from deep at the two. Hartman hit two of her four shots from beyond this year, but that is obviously an incredibly small sample size, so no definitive judgment can be made on her reliability as a shooter.
The Shot Distribution (also courtesy of herhoopstats.com)
Again, there’s not much to talk about here. Her usage rate was low, but that’s a direct reflection of the fact that NU’s offense featured a lot of on-ball action, specifically from Burton. Only 25% of her shots were from deep, which is a potential explanation for why she didn’t see more playing time when healthy, as Northwestern had plenty of non-perimeter players ahead of her. An effective field goal percentage of 60% is impressive, but again, Hartman’s sample size was too small to be significant.
In the time she was on the court, Hartman displayed confidence to the extreme. She plays hard, is a good defender, and has no hesitation taking shots. She reads opposing teams well on both sides of the floor and is often in a position to use her athleticism well. She may not take a ton of shots, but the ones she takes are usually good looks.
Hartman is talented all-around, but she didn’t shoot the ball well enough to get significant minutes when healthy, isn’t big enough to guard the post, and can’t create her own shot. Aside from her injury that kept her sidelined for much of the season, she was stuck behind Hamilton, Wood, Pulliam, and Satterwhite. Ultimately, she wasn’t extraordinary enough in any one facet to win significant minutes, falling prey to NU’s guard depth.
Beyond resting up and getting healthy, Hartman would be smart to continue honing her jump shot. Northwestern suffered in three areas drastically this year: rebounding, three-point shooting, and free-throw shooting, converting 66% from the line and 27% from beyond the arc. If Hartman can become a deep range deadeye, she could easily become what this team needs from a scoring perspective.
Northwestern needs a guard to complement Wood and Burton in the backcourt. If Hartman can solidify her shot from beyond the arc, her size and energy would allow her to slot perfectly into the starting lineup as a tenacious wing in the blizzard and an off-ball threat on the offensive end of the floor.