“Oh yeah, we played some big games in our living room,” her dad, Randy, said with a laugh. “We have a 14-foot cathedral ceiling. There’s a rim and backboard in there and we have hardwood floors so you can dribble.
“We use a ball about this size,” he said cupping his hands as though gripping a soccer ball.
“Now the grandkids use it, but when Layne was coming up, it was the adults against the kids, and we’d beat on ‘em.”
Layne is the youngest of four and her hoops nemesis was her older brother, Ryan, who played football at Franklin High School.
“I never won against him,” she laughed.
Ryan grinned as he remembered those games: “If she was getting ready to win, I was putting her through the wall.”
Those hard-nosed lessons transferred later to her hardwood success.
At Franklin, she was the Southwestern Buckeye League (SWBL) Player of the Year, won All-Ohio honors and scored 1,974 points, the most ever by a Wildcat girl.
She went to Akron, and after a redshirt season, played three years and started every game the past two seasons. Her first year she led the team in field goal percentage (57.5) and three-point accuracy (46.2). Along the way she had several big games, including 25 against Ohio University her first season and 24 in a victory over the Dayton Flyers last year.
A coaching change after last season prompted several of Akron’s key players to transfer.
A 6-foot-2 guard, Ferrell got offers from around the nation, but wanted to play her final two seasons closer to home and visited Dayton and Northern Kentucky before choosing Wright State,
At the Nutter Center on Monday night she led the Raiders to an 89-78 victory over Marshall, which demolished WSU by 25 last season.
Along with a team-high 17 points, she and Jada Tate led the Raiders with seven rebounds each. Ferrell also had two blocked shots.
The only negative — and that would be nitpicking — is that she doesn’t shoot enough. Monday night she made six of nine shots and could have launched a half dozen more.
“She brings us maturity and stability, she’s just really skilled at the game,” WSU coach Kari Hoffman said afterward. “But every coach who has ever coached her has said she just needs to shoot more. She’s too humble and wants to pass.
“We keep telling her, we need her to put the ball in the bucket.”
Ferrell, who averages 11.5 points per game, smiled when she heard that: “Yeah, I’ve pretty much been told my entire basketball career that I need to shoot more. But I like to pass and share the ball.”
Randy shook his head on that issue:
“Her mom still blames me for that!
“I didn’t make her pass, but I taught her when she was younger not to be a ball hog. But we tell her now, ‘When the team needs a scorer, you need to step up.’”
Playing close to family
After last season’s 17-13 campaign, Akron coach Melissa Jackson — who went 72-69 in five years — was not rehired. That ouster prompted the departure of six Zips.
“I’d never been in the transfer portal before and honestly I was kind of shocked,” Ferrell said. “You know the moment your name drops in there because there are texts, calls, emails, everything. It’s insane.
“A lot of the MAC schools I played against reached out, but there were crazy places, too. Like Georgia Tech — I’d never visited there or even talked to them, and Utah State, too. But I wanted to be back in the Dayton area. It was important to be close to my family.”
Hoffman said they reached out immediately: “We didn’t think we’d get her to come on a visit, but I think it helped that a couple of the girls who committed ahead of her — like Hutch (Alexis Hutchison) — were people she knew.”
Randy said that was a factor:
“She played AAU ball with the girl from Mount Notre Dame, Julia Hoefling (who transferred from Loyola Chicago after four seasons and 83 games) and she also knew of the Henson girl from Valley View. (Claire Henson transferred from Long Island University, where she played 26 games as a freshman last season.)
“And of course, she knew Hutch, who’s from Centerville. Us and the Hutchisons have been pretty close since the kids were in the sixth grade. We spent a lot of time together on the circuit.”
Hutchison played four seasons at Division II Malone, where she started 103 of her 108 games and scored 1,387 points.
She’s the point guard engine of the Raiders this season and their leading scorer (16 points per game). Monday night she had 15 points and 10 assists. Three other Raiders also were in double figures: Rachel Loobie had 13 points; Lauren Scott 12; and Tate 10.
Just like Hoffman — who noted how Ferrell’s presence on the court lifts the entire team — John Rossi, the retired Franklin coach who was at Monday night’s game, had plenty of praise for his former charge:
“She’s just a great, great team player, very unselfish — to tell the truth, she’s too nice sometimes — but she makes everybody around her better.”
He said she did in in the two years he coached her and he’s seeing her doing it at Wright State, where the 4-2 Raiders are playing as a cohesive unit.
While there are eight transfers on the roster, the four who came in this season — Ferrell, Hutchison, Hoefling and Tate — brought a wealth of experience. Combined they had played 384 games and had 299 starts before donning a WSU uniform.
Payback for Marshall
Half of Wright State’s players Monday weren’t part of the program last season when the Raiders went into Huntington, West Virginia and, in the words of Hoffman, ‘laid an egg” against Marshall.
The Thundering Herd embarrassed WSU, 72-47. It was the Raiders fifth straight loss in what would end up being a 13-game losing streak. Wright State would end the season 8-24 and Hoffman called the Marshall flop “probably our worst game of the year.”
That’s why Monday’s game loomed large for Hoffman:
“Only a handful of our players remember last year’s game, but we talked about it. They know us coaches, we’re competitive, and I did really, really, really want to win this one badly because of what happened last year.”
Hoffman and her staff had prepared their players for a Marshall team that was ranked second in the nation in steals per game, seventh in the turnover margin and 15th in scoring offense.
“We knew Marshall likes to speed the game up, so shot selection was really important,” Ferrell said. “We didn’t take quick shots, bad shots, that would allow them to get out in transition as much as they usually do”.
She said that’s why she turned down a wide open, three-point opportunity on the baseline when the game opened. Instead, she passed the ball back to Hutchison, who drove and scored 14 seconds after the tip.
WSU led for all but 83 seconds of the game and at one point was up by 23. And Ferrell was on the court almost the whole time. playing a team high 36:57.
“She makes very few mistakes and she’s a great defender,” Hoffman said “Man, we’re really glad to have her.”
Rossi felt the same way when Ferrell played for him. While he kept stressing how she made her teammates better, he recalled an exclamation point stat that told how good she was, too:
“She scored 1,974 points!”
He started to chuckle: “I might forget my wife’s birthday, but I can remember that.”