Pankey’s career taking off after slow start

Life continues to get better for Ashton Pankey after a rough first year in his hometown.

His career did not go the way he wanted it to prior to the 2012-13 season, including losing his freshman season at Maryland to injury. Pankey transferred from Maryland to Manhattan College in 2012 to be closer his family, especially his mother, Persuasion Branch, who was ill.

“It was horrible,” the Bronx native said. “It was a tough year for me and my family. I transferred back home because my mom was sick. I wanted to be closer to home and family so they can watch me play.”

The 6-foot-10 forward was able to rebound after his off year and became a key member of the Jaspers by contributing to two MAAC Championships and berths into the NCAA tournament. His mother’s health has also improved.

In 2013-14, Pankey averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest, but showed signs of things to come 16 points in the Jaspers’ NCAA tournament loss to Louisville.

This past season, he averaged 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. He was also named the MAAC Tournament’s Outstanding Player after scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help Manhattan and head coach Steve Masiello to second straight championship in its 79-69 victory over Iona College.

“It was a great experience,” Pankey said. “I played for a very good coach and a good coaching staff. My teammates had a bond that I will never forget. I am going to really miss my time there.”

The forward credits Masiello for his success. He drove Pankey to reach his full potential.

“He brings the best out of you,” Pankey said. “You have to go out there and play as hard as you can. If you don’t bring it he’s not going to play you. I struggled in the beginning. Once I got it and it clicked for me, the sky was the limit.”

Pankey decided not to try for a sixth year of eligibility to play one more season for the Jaspers and turned pro instead. This summer the 23-year old is playing at Pro City at Baruch College with Big Apple Basketball to work on his game before he decides where he going to play professionally. It’s been a beneficial experience so far.

“I am playing against a lot of great players, guys who are leading scorers over in their leagues oversees,” Pankey said. “It is getting me ready. It is not a college game and it’s not a pro games. It is a great experience for me at the next level.”

Japan and France are a top of Pankey’s list of places to play overseas. But no matter where he plays he is going out there and playing for his family and his mother, who has recovered from her illness. He hopes basketball can help him provide for them down the road.

“My mom is my rock she is everything to me,” Pankey said. “My family is everything to me and every game I go out there and I am playing for them. I am playing as hard as I can because I want to help them out in the future.”

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