Updated: Apr 23
New Jersey native, highly-touted combo-guard and recent Villanova commit Mark Armstrong should provide an instant impact for Jay Wright’s program when he arrives on campus in 2022. Armstrong currently attends St. Peter’s Prep (NJ), and plays for the New Heights Lightning (NY) on the Nike EYBL circuit.
His two-way versatility and athleticism immediately stand out when evaluating Armstrong. He also brings scoring diversity, tough finishing ability, primary creating, leadership, and ball-stopping ability on the defensive end. He is the first commit for Villanova in the class of 2022.
In this interview, Armstrong discusses what led him to make his final decision and peels back the curtain a bit for Villanova fans in order to provide an idea of what they’re getting in Mark Armstrong the person, not just the basketball player.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Mark Armstrong, from South Orange, New Jersey:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Mark Armstrong: I’m from South Orange, New Jersey. I have an older sister who went to Hampton University. I have two parents. I’d say my background is basketball — my dad played basketball and my mom was a cheerleader for my dad at St. Peter’s Prep. I went to Jefferson Elementary School and then South Orange Middle School. I also went to Marshall School. So it went Marshall, Jefferson Elementary, and then South Orange. In terms of my background, as I mentioned earlier, it’s basketball. My dad played ball. My sister was the first one of the siblings to play ball and then I came along to play basketball. So that’s basically my background of how I grew up and started to play basketball.
PI: Anybody in your family play basketball collegiately?
MA: I want to say my second cousin played collegiately, I don’t know for sure, but I want to say he played at North Carolina A&T, but I’m not sure on that. My dad played at a D3 college called Rhode Island College. My sister played up until her senior year of high school, but didn’t play in college.
PI: Do you play any other sports?
MA: I was always a kid where I just wanted to have fun. So anything I could compete in — soccer, I feel like I was the best at soccer. I always wanted to play football. Ping pong, I always thought I was the best at ping pong. Like different sports, like anything I do, I just wanted to have fun. So when I was younger I [mainly] did baseball, soccer, and basketball. But I felt better with basketball than soccer and baseball. Baseball was a little too slow for me [laughs]. Basketball started taking over more in the third grade and that’s when I just stuck to that sport.
PI: What made you fall in love with basketball?
MA: It was more like since my sister played basketball I was always around basketball. My town is more of a baseball and soccer town. But more of the people my sister hung around and I hung around, all we would talk about was basketball so I was engrossed in the culture of basketball and all I knew was basketball. So that’s why I took more of a step towards basketball than any other sport.
PI: Who were some players you loved to watch on TV growing up?
MA: I never really had an NBA favorite, but I would just watch. Actually I did have a favorite player, but he got injured, and that was Derrick Rose. I had his jersey and I always wore his sneakers. I would say him and Russell Westbrook. But I started rolling with other players like Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Stephen Curry, guys like that. Just how versatile they are, especially Derrick Rose was one of the main guys I first started watching.
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game — what are your greatest strengths?
MA: I’d say one of my greatest strengths is scoring the ball. I wasn’t ever really a scorer, so I worked and worked on becoming a scorer. So now I feel like that’s the strength of my game, but in particular shooting. Shooting with the ball in my hand, attacking the basket, finishing through contact I’d say is the strength of my game. I do a lot of different things, but I feel like my main strength is scoring the basketball.
PI: What are your current measurements?
MA: I’d say right now without shoes I’m 6’2” and with shoes I’m 6’3”. I weigh 170 pounds and I’m trying to get my weight up and get stronger.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
MA: I’d say coming in with more energy to the floor. Sometimes I come in trying to assess the situation instead of just coming in with full energy and playing hard. Not putting as much pressure on myself, just enjoying the game. Also playing harder defense and setting the tone. I’m going to be a point guard so that’s what I want to do, set the tone defensively as a leader. On the offensive end I want to keep everything simple, simplify my game. At the next level you’re not going to get certain things off that you can in high school. So I want to simplify my game, make it easier for me and more efficient. So those are the things I’m really working on, and of course my body and getting stronger.
PI: What are some underrated parts of your game you feel you don’t get enough credit for?
MA: One thing I feel like doesn’t get talked about is my versatility on the court. I can play both sides, I can fill the stat sheet and be a better passer, rebounding, everything that matters in those categories. So I feel like [my versatility] isn’t talked about enough and I will be able to do it at the next level.
PI: How would you describe yourself as a defender?
MA: I’ll start with my weaknesses on defense: I need to stop gambling more because I feel like I use my athleticism too much, like, “oh I’m gonna get this steal.” I’m trying to get the steal and I’m trying to jump and block everything instead of being smarter on defense and getting lower on defense. Guarding the ball harder, talking, etc. Weak side defense has gotten better over the years so that’s what I’m really working on with defense. Especially with my high school, St. Peter’s Prep and my AAU team, Lightning.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?