Jake Layman's return cements Maryland as a top five team next year

Jake Layman's return cements Maryland as a top five team next year

Jake Layman's looming decision whether to enter the NBA draft was the one thing standing between Maryland and a surefire top five preseason ranking next fall.

Now that the 6-foot-8 forward has made a wise choice to return to school, there's little doubt the Terrapins will be one of next season's elite teams.

Maryland will have perhaps the Big Ten's best frontcourt next season with McDonald's All-American Diamond Stone at center, coveted Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter at power forward and Layman sliding down to his more natural small forward position. The Terps will miss the scoring, distributing and leadership of Dez Wells in the backcourt, but Melo Trimble should be one of the nation's best scoring guards as a sophomore and Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens should absorb much of Wells' playing time. 

What could elevate Maryland from title contender to potential title favorite is its pursuit of Drexel transfer Damion Lee.

The 6-foot-6 Baltimore native is perhaps the most sought-after graduate transfer on the market so far this spring after averaging 21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game as a junior. He'd be an ideal replacement for Wells in Maryland's starting lineup and would enable Wiley and Nickens to remain the top options off the bench. 

Layman's decision to return appears shrewd for several reasons.

Though his length, athleticism and versatility make him an intriguing prospect for NBA scouts, he was more likely to be selected in the second round than the first had he entered this June's draft. Returning to school gives him another offseason to get stronger and tougher and enables him to showcase himself at his natural position for a potential national title contender next season.

“I would like to thank Coach Turgeon for his guidance during this process,” Layman said in a release from the school. “Maryland is my home and we had great success this year. There is so much to look forward to next season and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

This past season, Maryland became one of the nation's pleasant surprises when it won 28 games, finished second in the Big Ten and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

Next season, the only surprise will be if the Terps don't exceed those accomplishments.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!