On Monday Manhattan clinched an automatic bid with a 10-point win over Iona in the MAAC tourney title game. The Gaels swept the regular season series but the Jaspers showed that the third time is indeed the charm to secure the school’s 2nd straight tourney berth. Earlier today Jon Teitel got to speak with Ashton Pankey about being named conference tourney MVP.
You played for two of the best high school coaches ever in Bob Hurley (at St. Anthony’s) and Jack Curran (Archbishop Molloy): how did they help prepare you for the college game? I am so grateful to have learned from Coach Curran when I was just 14-15 years old, and was blessed to play under two of the best coaches of all time.
You began your college career at Maryland: why did you decide to transfer, and what made you choose the Jaspers? My mom has always been the rock of my life and my greatest friend. When she got sick I wanted to go to a school closer to home and the Jaspers were the greatest fit for me.
In last year’s tourney you scored 16 points in a 7-point loss to Louisville: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this time around? It showed me what it takes to play at a high-major level. We went right down to the wire with them and the experience will stay with us forever.
You scored nine points in a loss to Northeastern back in November: did you think at the time that the Huskies were a tourney-caliber team, and what impressed you the most about them? Their basketball IQ is very high and they have a lot of pick and pop guys and players who can beat you off the dribble.
You had a record of 8-10 in late-January: how has your team been able to turn things around over the past t months? Coach always says that the final months is the time when you need to hit your stride, which is what we did.
You had 21 points and 10 rebounds on Monday in a win over Iona: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? We played Iona in the title game for two years in a row so we knew the atmosphere was going to be crazy. My teammates played really big and hit a lot of open threes. We think we have the best fans in the MAC and they were all happy when we got back to campus.
You were named conference tourney MVP: what did it mean to you receive such an outstanding honor? It means so much. I always felt like an underdog who never played up to his potential, but I give all the credit to my teammates/coaches who helped me improve my game.
You play for Coach Steve Masiello: what makes him such a good coach, and does he ever talk about winning the 1998 NCAA title? He is one of the smartest coaches out there and our style wears other teams out and is very hard to defend. We pride ourselves on our defense, and the reason I came here is because I knew he would help me improve.
Your dad played football at Lehigh: who is the best athlete in the family? My dad had a big knee injury that forced him to stop playing, so I am the best for now…until my little brother grows up!
What kind of seed do you think you deserve, and what kind of seed do you think you will get? We are not sure but I am hearing the play-in game. Regardless of what happens it is great to get here and we are just thankful to be here and will play as hard as we can.