Originally posted on The Terrapin Nation  |  Last updated 11/9/11

With the start of the season right around the corner, Terps Insider continues our player-by-player breakdown of the 2011-2012 Maryland Terrapins. Today: Ashton Pankey

Injured.

That is the only word that can be used to sum up Ashton Pankey’s career thus far. After missing his senior season at St. Anthony’s high school due to a stress fracture in his leg, he then missed all but one game for the Terps last season, finally opting to have corrective surgerye on the leg last winter.

Pankey applied for, and was awarded, a medical hardship waiver and returns to the Maryland lineup this season with four years of eligibility still in tact.

Throughout the preseason coach Mark Turgeon has praised Pankey, saying that he believes Ashton is the best rebounder on the team.

In Maryland’s exhibition game against Northwood, Pankey looked like the strong, rebounding, inside presence that Mark Turgeon had been singing the praises of. Pankey showed no ill effects of the injury that had forced him to essentially miss the past two seasons. Ashton finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, shooting 6 of 8 from the field in 27 minutes of play.

Maryland had an already thin frontline and with the early-season suspension of Alex Len it will be almost downright anemic. And while Pankey came into the season as an unknown, he has looked impressive thus far. At 6-9, 220-pounds, Pankey has the necessary size to compete down low in the ACC. He also has an excellent natural rebounding instinct and is efficient around the basket. Pankey is exactly the type of forward that can thrive in Mark Turgeon’s defensive scheme which focuses on boxing out and rebounding. 

If Pankey can stay healthy for all 30 regular-season games this season, he could be this year’s ‘X factor’. It’s not out of the question that Pankey could see anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes a game, especially early on in the season. If Maryland can get consistant double-digit scoring and 5 to 10 rebounds a game out of the redshirt freshman, Maryland will have a chance to exceed many expert’s expectations this year.

Best-case: Pankey is able to average double-digit scoring and rebounds. He is able to not only finish down low in traffic, but he can consistently make his free throws and convert his three-point opportunities. He could potentially be the best player on this year’s team in the front court.

Worst-case: The injury bug strikes again. Pankey has had a lot of time away from the court over the last couple of years. Conditioning and run, jump strength could possibly become an issue during a long season.

Quotable: “From what I see he is by far our best rebounder. He played for a great high school coach in Bob Hurley. I imagine he will be great on defense, especially team defense. Whenever we do shell or defensive drills he has stood out a little bit. I think he has been a pleasant surprise. He has played with some confidence. Ashton isn’t a guy who you can throw the ball to on the block and expect him to score. We have to have a guy who can rebound the ball and I think he will do a lot of that this year.” – Head Coach Mark Turgeon

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