One of the area’s top recruits waited inside. Jason Ankrah, then a Quince Orchard senior, had orally committed to play defensive end for the Cornhuskers and now Pelini paid an informal visit to make sure that pledge would become official on National Signing Day.
Outside, Andrew Ankrah, an eighth grader, deftly hopped off his skateboard and greeted the coaches from the sidewalk. The little brother, sporting a flannel shirt and ripped jeans, wasn’t so little, already nearing 6-foot-3 with the long, slender build of an athlete.
Soon enough, Ankrah, who did not play any organized sports at the time, was back on his board, blissfully practicing his tricks as Mencarini and Pelini headed inside to meet the coveted All-Met lineman in the family.
Four years later, Andrew Ankrah – now 6-foot-4, 220 pounds – continues to build on the potential so evident to Mencarini that day. As a senior, Ankrah has become a three-sport athlete at Quince Orchard and last month signed to play football at James Madison.
“He’s developed into such a fine young man,” Mencarini said. “He’s really, really interesting. Football’s a big part of that, but he’s such a humble kid and he’s so appreciative. I don’t think he thought this could ever happen to him.”
Before joining his brother in the college football ranks next fall, Ankrah remains focused on his latest undertaking: basketball. He has thrown the same work ethic into his new sport that helped him morph into a Football Championship Subdivision prospect in a short time.
By honing his raw game on the hardwood, Ankrah’s role as a reserve center has gradually increased. He struggled to make it off the bench early in the year but has become a reliable option in the post with 22 points in 64 minutes over 12 games for the Cougars, who earned the No. 3 seed in the Maryland 4A West and open the postseason on Thursday night against Whitman.
“Every timeout,” longtime Q.O. basketball coach Paul Foringer said, “he plays a little bit better and a little bit better.”
Ankrah had played plenty of pickup games in recent years and even joined the Cougars for a few summer league contests, but he took that interest to the next level this fall when he told Foringer he wanted to give up indoor track and instead try out for the basketball team when football ended.
Well, Ankrah hoped to tryout, anyway. First, he wanted to make sure he cleared it with his future football coaches, and so the weekend after the Cougars fell in the Maryland 4A final to Wise, he mustered up the courage to call James Madison assistant Tony LeZotte to ask permission to launch his basketball career.
LeZotte “totally supported it,” Ankrah said. “He said, ‘Go for it man. It’s your senior year. You should be able to do what you want.’ Actually, when I heard that I felt even better about my decision [to go to James Madison] because I knew I was going to into a good program where they really trust and care about me.”