Our Take: The week in Maryland sports

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland basketball and football.

Maryland announced this week that power forward Ashton Pankey will transfer to a school closer to his New York City home. Should we be surprised about this news, and is it a significant loss?


Jeff Barker: I think you've got to study the clues we got about Pankey.

Consider that Mark Turgeon surprised some Maryland observers by saying before last season that Pankey -- who had endured a stress fracture and shinsplints and missed almost all of 2010-11 -- could be the team’s best rebounder.

But look what happened after that. Pankey had an uneven season, averaging 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds. He reached double figures in rebounds three times.

I can’t help but remember the Notre Dame game at Verizon Center. Pankey played one minute in Maryland’s win. Turgeon would say only that Pankey's limited playing time was the coach's decision. The coach had told reporters earlier that Pankey "has gone brain-dead at times and he's a very smart player."

Pankey's role shrank for awhile after Alex Len arrived. Pankey had some difficult games after that -- such as one rebound and no points in 16 minutes againstN.C. Statein January.

He had his moments -- he can be a strong inside presence -- but he could also disappear in games and be absolutely maddening to his coach.


Given all that -- and the fact that Maryland has some frontcourt talent coming in, and that Pankey wanted to be nearer his family in New York City -- it's not so surprising that he has left the building.

Randy Edsall received a lot of criticism for the football team's many departures before and after the 2011 season. With Terrell Stoglin, Mychal Parker and Ashton Pankey now gone, why hasn't Mark Turgeon been criticized much? Should he be?

Don Markus: I think there are two reasons why Turgeon hasn't taken the same kind of heat.

The first is that Turgeon's honeymoon phase in College Park is ongoing since the Terps were fairly competitive last season, while Edsall was being criticized after the fourth game of the season when Temple came into Byrd Stadium and blasted Maryland en route to its 2-10 disaster.


Even more important is the fact that Turgeon didn't run off Terrell Stoglin and Mychal Parker -- they essentially ran themselves off by flunking multiple drug tests.

In Pankey's case, Turgeon appears to be trying to help him avoid having to sit out a year and lose a full season of eligibility since he already redshirted. Turgeon was quick to say that Pankey was leaving to play closer to home and be there for his ailing mother, rather than say the 6-9 forward was no longer in the team's plans. That should help Pankey's case for a waiver from the NCAA to play right away.

You also don't see Turgeon making statements about whether his players are "all in" like Edsall said about Danny O'Brien. The only thing that could change is if a player like Nick Faust suddenly left, which I don't see happening. 

The members of Maryland's 2010 basketball recruiting class were Terrell Stoglin, Mychal Parker, Ashton Pankey, Berend Weijs, Haukur Palsson and Pe'Shon Howard. Stoglin (declared for NBA draft), Parker (transferred to Loyola), Pankey (will transfer), Weijs (will graduate) and Palsson (left to play overseas) are all gone. Howard remains but has battled injuries. What went wrong with that class?

Matt Bracken: We'll exclude Weijs from this discussion because he was a late JUCO recruit that pretty much did what was expected of him -- provide depth, block a few shots, be a good practice player and graduate -- over the past two seasons. But it's probably safe to say that nobody would have guessed two years ago that just one of those 5 freshmen would remain in College Park come junior year.

It's hard to completely knock the Terps' 2010 coaching staff for this class. Stoglin was an off-the-radar, three-star prospect from Arizona who had just a handful of other high-major offers. Certainly his suspension/departure was a disappointment, but credit Rob Ehsan for identifying the ACC's leading scorer when many other schools took a pass. Palsson had a promising freshman year but decided to go pro rather than face the prospect of being an undersized 4 as a sophomore. Again, not a bad evaluation on the Terps' part, just an unexpected, premature exit.

Maryland was far from the only program that missed the boat on Parker.'s No. 45 prospect nationally in the 2010 class had serious interest from Kentucky and offers from N.C. State, Virginia, West Virginia, Clemson, Miami and several others. Parker has high-major athleticism, and I think he could be a star at Loyola, but the ACC, in hindsight, might've been a little much. Pankey, meanwhile, was a roll of the dice from the start. The three-star prospect picked the Terps over Drexel, Hofstra, Houston and Rice. Pankey wasn't completely overmatched in the ACC, but he'll be a much better fit at a mid-major.

Howard's the survivor of this group, and it's easy to see why. Suiting up for Maryland -- and playing in the ACC -- was always something of a dream for the Oak Hill product. He's a hard worker and a natural leader. He's got a ton to prove as a junior, but he seems to have been rated appropriately.

So what went wrong in 2010? Mostly bad luck combined with a couple of shaky evaluations. It's no secret that the assistants did much of the leg work in evaluating prospects, and Gary Williams ultimately decided whether to sign off on a recruit. Mark Turgeon has been more hands-on in recruiting. We'll see two years from now -- with Maryland's five-man 2012 class -- how much of a difference that makes.