Layton figures to be key member of team

By Wes Swietek

The 1990-91 season was a glorious one for the NIU men’s basketball team.

But the season was more frustrating than glorious for one of its members.

As the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Tournament, freshman guard Mark Layton was forced to watch from the bench. After starting four of NIU’s first 12 games, Layton was banished to the sidelines because of academic difficulties.

Coming into the 1991-92 season, the 5-11 sophomore figures to be a key member of NIU’s graduation-depleted squad.

“Mark’s a keeper, he plays great defense and plays with equal intensity on both ends of the floor,” head coach Brian Hammel said.

Defense was Layton’s trademark, but Hammel would probably like for Layton to improve on his 4.1 points per game average of last season. “We’re looking for all of our guards to score,” Hammel said, “or else you’ll always get double-teamed.”

For his part, Layton can’t wait to get back on the court.

“I’m very anxious to get back. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there,” he said.

Being rusty, however, doesn’t concern Layton. “Practicing last year gave me a lot of experience,” Layton said. “Playing with and practicing against (Donald) Whiteside gave me a lot of experience.”

The former Westchester St. Joseph standout is also ready to assume any role Hammel assigns to him.

“My role won’t be so much as a vocal leader, but being a leader through hard work and effort on the court,” Layton said

Layton is also ready for Hammel’s new up-tempo offense.

“At high school, our style was up and down, so it shouldn’t be hard to adjust,” Layton said. “A lot of our guys like to run because we have a lot of good athletes. There’s going to be an adjustment for all of us—we haven’t played with each other that much.”

A good season would help erase the disappointment from last year.

“It was very disappointing because I felt I could help the team. I wouldn’t have been the main player, but I would have helped out,” Layton said.

“My main problem (academically) was time management and adjusting to college life,” he said of the problem that sidelined him. “I’ve been staying on top of that now.”

“Mark has to see success in the classroom as well as on the basketball court,” Hammel said.

Despite the Huskies’ inexperience, Layton and his teammates are aiming for lofty goals.

“In the back of everybody’s mind is to get back to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “But first we have to worry about the Mid-Continent Tournament.”

This year, Layton will have his chance to help determine if NIU reaches its goals or not.