Do not let his junior status fool you; Ashton Pankey has been in college for five years.
Under NCAA guidelines, a student-athlete is given a five-year window to play four seasons.
However, due to a medical redshirt in 2010-2011 and the 2012-2013 season he had to sit out when he transferred to Manhattan College, Pankey has only played three seasons.
He has exhausted his five-year window of eligibility, and for that reason, he has decided to pursue a career as a professional basketball player instead of seeking a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
“I only got to play for three years, but I feel like I did a lot in my three years,” Pankey says about his thought process in choosing to go pro. “I gave it a lot of thought after the Hampton game. It was a really tough decision actually because I still have that extra year maybe, since there’s no guarantee I can get the waiver.
“But, I just feel like I want to make money playing the game. I want to be a professional, whether it’s NBA or overseas, and I want to take care of my family. That’s always been my goal and my dream. Now I have the opportunity and I wanted to take it.”
Pankey has the option of applying for a sixth-year of eligibility, since in March 2015, the NCAA announced it would allow players who transfer to have an extra year of eligibility and not lose a year on their five-year clock when they sit out.
Pankey might get the waiver if he applies for it, but the uncertainty of the situation has made his decision to become a professional easier.
“A whole waiver process all over again,” Pankey says about the key obstacle he would face if he decided to come back. “So the odds are definitely against me, especially here. I felt like why go through all the trouble, especially when I can go pro now. There’s no guarantee I’ll have a better year next year… you just never know with these things.”
Manhattan’s head coach Steve Masiello has taken the news of Pankey going pro as any coach who loses one of the best players on his team would; with denial at first, but with support at the end.
“I’m in full support of Ashton’s decision,” Masiello says. “Him and I met and have discussed it. … He wants to pursue a professional career and…I want to see him achieve all his dreams and goals for life.”
“Coach Mas was all for me coming back of course,” Pankey says. “He would love for me to come back. All the coaches do. But at the same time, he’s going to support me no matter what decision I make.
“In terms of going pro, I told him, he’s going to help me. He’s been helping me as much as he can. He knows some people. He has some connections, and whatever he can do to help, he’s willing to do. He’s going to support me no matter what. We’re like family.”
Masiello’s connections will be key, as Pankey’s next step will be hiring an agent.
From there, Pankey says he will be looking to fulfill his life-long dream of playing in the NBA.
He realizes he has not had the exposure other top NBA prospects have had, and he has not played consistently against the competition his fellow draft class has.
However, Pankey believes that if he can just get the opportunity to work out for NBA teams or perhaps play in the summer league, he is confident he can prove that he belongs in The Association.
“I’ve played at a high level,” Pankey says. “I’ve played at Maryland. I’ve played against guys like Montrezl Harrell and have played well against them. So, I know I can play at that level. …”
The latest mock drafts from sites such as draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net do not project Pankey to be selected in the 2015 NBA Draft.
However, the possibility remains that Pankey gets an invite to the summer league and makes a team as an undrafted free agent.
Pankey will weigh all his options, including a return to Manhattan.
He believes the chances of him returning are slim. He wants to become a professional, but he still wants to leave the door open on a return until he signs with an agent.
“You never know,” Pankey says about his chances of coming back. “There’s still like a tiny percentage I could come back. If you don’t sign with an agent you still have the option to come back to school. So you never know. I’m more leaning towards going pro. Probably like 95%, but there’s still that 5% that maybe I could come back. That option is still on the table.”
Jonathan Reyes contributed to the reporting.