Meet Ashton Pankey
By the time he was 12, Ashton Pankey had a pretty good idea that he would play college basketball.
The 6-foot seventh-grader was a good student who wasn’t enamored with the game just yet, but that changed in hurry, especially after throwing down his first dunk that year.
“From seventh to eighth grade I grew from 6 feet to 6-6,” Pankey said. “That’s when I had my previous growth spurt. ... At seventh grade, I wasn’t as serious about basketball. During high school, I became more serious.”
The Maryland-bound power forward has made that abundantly clear the past three years, first while starring for Archbishop Molloy in Queens, N.Y., and then as a junior with the legendary St. Anthony High program in Jersey City.
Pankey’s seventh-grade predictions about playing college basketball came into focus during those earlier high school years. He knew he wanted to leave the New York area, essentially eliminating St. John’s and Seton Hall from contention. When Maryland came calling this summer, Pankey found what he was looking for athletically and academically.
“I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level of basketball, and one thing I dream of is being a pro,” Pankey said. “I work my hardest and do what I need to do, and I think Maryland is going to give me the best chance [of realizing that dream]. And it’s not just basketball. Maryland’s one of the best schools in the country in terms of academics, too.”
Pankey and his mother, who he calls his “best friend,” visited College Park over Halloween weekend. It didn’t take long for Maryland to convince Pankey’s mother that it was the best place for her son.
“I mean [her approval] was very important, but at that point, I was just so stuck on Maryland that I thought even if she didn’t like it, I was going to go there anyway,” Pankey said with a laugh.
Pankey will likely be counted on to do what he does best -- rebounding and shot-blocking -- as a freshman at Maryland. Off the court, Pankey said he’s already friends with Terps freshman James Padgett from their New York playing days and he looks forward to connecting with the rest of the team -- not to mention the Maryland fan base.
“I want them to know that they can expect ... that I’m going to do my best to help the team win, play my hardest and just have a great time,” Pankey said. “I want to interact with the fans. I’m a great person and I’m not mean. You can come at me as a friend.”
Here’s an introduction to Pankey.
Name: Ashton Pankey
Birthdate: May 16, 1992
Birthplace: Bronx, N.Y.
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Position: Power forward
High School: St. Anthony (N.J.)
Junior statistics: “About 10 points, two to three blocks per game."
Rankings: Rivals.com -- Three stars. Scout.com -- Three stars, No. 36 power forward. ESPN.com -- 91 rating, No. 40 power forward.
Other schools considered: Drexel, Hofstra, Houston, Rice
Favorite pro basketball player: Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James
Favorite pro basketball team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Favorite all-time Terp: Steve Francis
Favorite music: Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye West, Jay-Z
Favorite book: The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
Favorite movie: Coach Carter
Favorite TV show: SpongeBob SquarePants
Favorite food: “I like everything.”
Favorite high school class: Math
Favorite thing about College Park: “The atmosphere. It’s a friendly atmosphere around there.”
Hobbies: “Going out to the movies, chilling with friends. I don’t have a lot of down time for myself during the season. Besides basketball, I don’t really do much.”
Intended major: “Probably business.”
Something that not many people know about you: “I’m friendly. A lot of people think I’m conceited, [but I’m not]. So if you see me outside one day, come and talk to me. I won’t bite.”
Best basketball moment: “When I caught my first dunk. It was great.”
Role model: “Michael Jordan [because] he’s the best basketball player ever.”
Why Maryland? “I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level of basketball, and one thing I dream of is being a pro. I work my hardest and do what I need to do, and I think Maryland is going to give me the best chance [of realizing that dream]. And it’s not just basketball. Maryland’s one of the best schools in the country in terms of academics, too.”