OKEMOS – Laya Hartman hates to be caught off guard.
The Okemos sophomore guard likes to know the questions before you ask. She likes to ponder over them before giving her responses.
Facing scrutiny since the eighth grade, the glare from the spotlight doesn’t bother her anymore, even though she can be reserved.
Hartman is a 5-foot-11 guard who is ranked as the 29th best sophomore in the country for the class of 2019, according to ESPN’s Dan Olson.
In her season opener against Chandler Park Academy, she had 28 points with six three-pointers to lead the team to a 57-28 victory.
As a freshman on a team that went 8-12 she averaged 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists. She has already hit game-winning shots and caught the eye of some of the country’s top programs.
She has 12 Division I offers, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Villanova, Oregon State, Purdue, Indiana, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Akron.
“It’s been going good so far,” said Hartman. “We have three freshman this year. Jasmine (Clerkley) is in the post and we have Leah (Zaleski) at point guard. So I won’t have the ball in my hands as much. I won’t be the main point guard. I’m OK with that. I don’t see myself being a point guard in college. I’ll probably be a wing, slash guard.’’
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Okemos has a new coach in Kristen Rasmussen, who played at Michigan State and in the WNBA.
“Our coach this year is more developed, so it’ll be a lot different this year,” she said. “I’ll have more help.”
That already is evident.
Clerkley had 13 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in her varsity debut, so Hartman does have more help. Young but talented, Okemos has the potential to make some noise around the Lansing area this year.
“There was a lot of freedom last year; there’s more structure this year,” said Hartman. “There’s more structure offensively, but (Rasmussen) is really big on defense. My role has changed because I won’t be the main point guard. I’ll still do scoring and assists. I like how she stresses defense.”
Hartman plays for an AAU team in Indiana, where she carved out a reputation at an early age.
“I like things about AAU basketball and high school basketball,” said Hartman. “I don’t feel as much pressure in high school basketball. There’s more room for me to play my game. AAU, there aren’t as many opportunities, but the level of play is a lot higher. There isn’t as much responsibility on you. There’s not as much ball movement. I just play my game and not be concerned about what other people are doing. Just know what you can do. Play with a lot of intensity.”
One of Hartman’s biggest fans is Okemos athletic director Ira Childress, who made sure he brought in a quality coach this year.
“Laya is not only of the best basketball student-athletes in the state, but she’s a great young lady and an excellent student,” said Childress. “Laya has a great work ethic and spends hours in the gym working on her game. Her success on the basketball court didn’t come by accident.”
The early offers didn’t faze her until she sat down and thought about it.
“I realized how it’s important, but I didn’t focus on it that much because there’s still things that I want to do,” she said. “I was thankful for it. I knew I didn’t need to stop practicing.”
Her conversation needs to improve on the court.
“I think I need to communicate more,” she said. “Be louder on the court and that’ll help with leadership and defensive intensity.”
Her game already speaks volumes.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.