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Northwestern women’s basketball 2021-2022 player reviews: Laya Hartman

If there was a most improved award, it would’ve gone to her.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 17 Women’s - Northwestern at Indiana

The end of Northwestern women’s basketball’s season came earlier than most had hoped, but there remain plenty of individual and team performances to look back on from the 2021-22 season. With March officially over and this year’s college basketball action behind us, it’s time we take a look at the impacts each member of Joe McKeown’s squad made during their 17-12 run. As we continue the assessment now into Northwestern’s starters, we move to Laya Hartman.

Stats

The following stats are courtesy of herhoopstats.com.

Merely a reserve player her first two seasons due to injury, Hartman broke out in a huge way in 2021-22. The junior played in 22 games, starting 13, and became a crucial piece of the Wildcat offense this past season. She first began to break out over a three game stretch in December where she hit two triples against Delaware, Milwaukee and Temple. This was the start of her major minute increase; she played 26 minutes per contest after averaging only six a game in 2021.

The third-year forward’s best game came in a home overtime loss to Iowa. Hartman earned a season-high 14 points in 39 minutes against the Hawkeyes and likely would’ve had the game-winning layup if not for a controversial clock error at the end of regulation. This was also her most efficient game, as she shot 6-of-11 from the field and knocked down 2-of-3 from deep.

Hartman averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game as primarily a three-point shooter, the first of which was good for the fourth highest on the team. She made only 37.4 percent of her shots inside the arc, but was more efficient from beyond, where she made 38.7 percent of her attempts.

Shot Distribution

Here are Hartman’s advanced metrics, also through Her Hoops Stats.

As mentioned earlier, Hartman mainly operated as a three-point shooter. Over half of her total points came from deep, largely due to the high number of threes she took. Hartman had a higher percentage of her points from three than anyone else on the team, as she was the only one to break the 50% threshold. Hartman was well known as a catch-and-shoot corner shooter, and that is certainly reflected in her shot distribution.

Hartman’s effective field goal percentage — a metric that adjusts for the extra weight of three-point shots — was in the 61st percentile of all players, and trailed only Courtney Shaw and Veronica Burton among Wildcats.

The Good

If there was a most improved player award for the 2021-2022 season, it would easily go to Hartman. McKeown highlighted it several times in postgame press conferences, but Hartman’s hard work over the offseason was a huge factor in the leap she took from her sophomore season, and she should only continue to improve next season with more experience.

Hartman really stood out this season as the stretch-four option for Burton to find open for three. As a 5-foot-11 guard/forward, she excelled at being able to space the floor and find herself room behind the arc. When given those opportunities, she was fairly efficient from three — shooting a better percentage from outside than inside.

The Bad

The deep shot was certainly a strength for the junior, but she struggled at most other spots on the floor. Hartman’s 37.4 percent average from the paint and midrange is less than optimal for a 5-foot-11 player, and is definitely a space that she can improve upon that’ll come with increased confidence. She also has just a 4.8 percent free throw rate, a number that’ll certainly increase if she becomes more aggressive in driving to the basket.

On the other side of the floor, Hartman can definitely become more active on defense. Hartman had one of the worst defensive ratings on the team, although that aspect absolutely has the potential to improve with on-court experience. Once again referencing her height, Hartman should be able to learn how to switch successfully onto bigger opponents in the post and become a better all-around defender with more practice.

Offseason Focus

After breaking out as a solid three-point shooter in her first season with starting minutes, the next step for Hartman to elevate her game is to focus on her scoring from other spots on the floor. She should look to manifest this in the paint, where she could learn to use her length to be aggressive in the post. On top of that, extra practice and experience will certainly improve Hartman’s defensive capabilities.

The Bottom Line

Hartman’s breakout season in 2022 was incredibly promising, as the junior proved to be one of the best three-point shooters on the team. It was evident at times that her lack of experience at the collegiate level so far cost her somewhat on the defensive end and her offensive consistency could’ve been better from inside the arc, but the promise that Hartman showed in 2022 should leave Wildcat fans with nothing but hope that she’ll continue to improve next season.