Updated: Jun 11
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?
MA: Man I’ve got to think about that one because I’ve played so many guys. Guys in Jersey and guys outside of Jersey, there’s a whole bunch of talented guys in the class of 2022 I’ve played against. Everybody is different and good on their own level, like one guy might be fast and quick, I’ve got to guard him differently. And another guy might be stronger than me so I’ve got to back up and play him smarter. I can’t really say any names, but there have been some tough matchups that I’ve had where I’m like, “whew that guy is good.” There’s not any one particular guy, but there are guys that I’ve played against who are very competitive and know how to play the game.
PI: Who were some of the guys who made an impression on you?
MA: There are a lot of good guys within the state. Guys like Will Richardson, Ben Roy, Jayden Pierre, Elijah Perkins, Jaquan Harris who committed to Seton Hall. A whole bunch of guys. Zion Cruz, I played against him. All of those guys are different in their own ways and I played against them. We all went at it and it’s crazy how we’re all growing up. We all played against each other when we were younger and now we’re all grown up in high school and are all the top kids in the state. So those are some of the names of guys I’ve played against where it was like, “yo, these guys are good.”
PI: Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
MA: I wouldn’t say I model my game [after anybody], but I’ll take bits and pieces of guys I see in the league. I might even see somebody who would not be labeled as “not top level,” but if I like the move I’m going to take the move. My teachers who have helped me get to the point I’m at say, “you’ll always be a student of the game.” Even if it’s from a person where he’s not like, “this guy” but the move is tough, you can use that move. I’m going to steal that move. You can always be a sponge and learn from different people. It doesn’t matter who they are. So I’ll say CJ McCollum for example — his footwork is crazy, his footwork is serious. The moves he makes to change direction, his floater. I’d say I take a little bit of that. Dame [Lillard], his quick release, how he gets separation off the defender, a whole bunch of stuff. Guys like Stephen Curry, how he runs off screens and moves without the ball. Even guys I played against, I took some moves from guys I’ve played against. I forgot this player's name, but he made a move I saw on video against our team. And he did it and I was like, “that’s a nice move” and I took it because I felt like I could put that in my bag. I feel like that’s my strength also, being a student of the game. Putting my ego aside and just learning and taking in information.
PI: How would you describe the basketball culture in your hometown?
MA: I feel like basketball is basketball so wherever you go you’ve still got to perform. You’ve still got to play and get along with the guys on your team. It’s different cultures from everywhere, everyone comes from different places, but we all put that aside and focus on one main goal. The culture is totally different, it’s funny, New York and Jersey are right there, but you’re in a totally different world when you hang around these guys in New York and you come back to where you live and it’s a totally different culture. Especially in a city life and going back to a more suburban life, it’s very different. But I don’t really see it that much because we’re all so focused and engrossed in basketball. It’s good to see different cultures, you learn different things. You start appreciating things that come to you. You start building connections. It’s good.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player and as a person?
MA: I feel like I fulfilled my short term goal…well my long term goal coming into high school was I wanted to get a D1 look. Once I got a D1 look I felt like I was good and offers started coming in so my goal changed. My short term goal now is to make an impact when I come in as a freshman. I know I have to work for it, but I feel like that’s one of my goals coming in. Another short term goal off the court is, even though I’m doing well in school, but being an even better student. Trying to graduate at the top of my class, I feel like those are my two short term goals.
PI: Are you close to being in the top of your class academically?
MA: Yeah a little bit, I want to say I got first honors during the first marking period. The second marking period I got my second honors I want to say. Then in this third marking period I got first honors [again]. So I’m going to try and keep my first honors this fourth quarter, but it’s going to be tough. But I’m up for the challenge.
PI: How about some long term goals?
MA: Long term goals, I’d really have to sit down and talk to my parents and coaches about some long term goals. I don’t really have long term goals now, I haven’t really sat down and thought about it because I was so focused on my short term goals. So I haven’t really thought about my long term goals yet, but I’ll have to get back to that.
PI: What are some things you bring to a team off the court?
MA: Just relaxed, have a good time, enjoy the moment. We’re blessed to be in this situation and not everyone gets this opportunity. Just collaborating with the guys and the team, having a great time with each other because we only get this chance one time so let’s make the best out of it. And just having fun, like if I’m going to be with you guys every day and practice with you guys, play ball with you guys then might as well have the best relationship off the court.
PI: You recently committed to Villanova — what were the most important factors in that decision?
MA: I’ll say just the connection I have with Coach Wright and Coach Nardi. That was probably the most important thing, was the relationship with the coaches. I feel like it was different conversations, it was something different than like “I’m just trying to get you to come to my school.” It was on a whole different level than basketball, just trying to be a better man. So it was a bunch of conversations like that. I was like, “ok this is a different type of situation” and it showed the culture of the school, of the team, and community around Villanova. Those are probably the main factors.
PI: How much of a challenge did the pandemic present while you were going through your recruiting process?
MA: I wouldn’t say it was challenging, I was always taught that when the situation comes just use it to your favor. When the quarantine hit I had offers on the table before the quarantine hit and I just hit the gym and tried to get better and better. Just working, just working, get in the gym. Working in my household, just working. And coaches started calling and I was like, “where did these coaches come from?” and I didn’t even expect it to happen. Coaches started calling and getting more interested and we started building more relationships. So I feel like it wasn’t challenging, but we were making the best of the situation.
PI: How surreal has it been to be getting all of this attention from college programs?
MA: It’s crazy like all the hard work I’ve put in is coming to fruition. I feel like just the other day I was watching Villanova play North Carolina in the championship game and Kris Jenkins hits that shot. I was just right there on my couch watching the game and it was crazy talking to Coach Wright and going from talking to Coach to now I’m going to Villanova. I feel like the attention doesn’t get to me. It’s going to happen because you’re going to a nationally-ranked school. I feel like my role now is to take the attention, but also zone it out, use it and block it out to be humble. So like, seeing what got me here now and let’s go to the next step. Processing that, we made a big step in my life.
PI: Who did you turn to for guidance during the process?
MA: I would say my parents and my two head coaches, for AAU and high school. Those are the four people that are really helping me through the process. Of course I have my trainers, Coach Pete, Coach Phil, Coach Brandon, Coach Al, and all my other coaches. I have so many coaches that have helped me get to this point. But those are the main four people that have helped me through this process. I feel like I didn’t let it overwhelm me, so if I felt like I had a problem I would ask questions. So I feel like that was good about the process. Those were the four main people that were helping me in this situation.
PI: What sort of advice did they give you?
MA: My parents told me to, “be patient and what’s important will reveal itself at the right time.” So when I committed to Villanova I feel like it revealed itself at the right time. So that’s what was good about the situation. PI: What set Villanova apart? What separated them from the rest of your options?
MA: I definitely had more of a connection to the program than any other program. I’ve been to plenty of games, I’ve been to their locker room twice. I got to meet the whole coaching staff and it’s just an amazing culture. Their biggest thing is attitude and that stuck out, it’s not even just about basketball it’s about being a better man and that will help you be better on the court and which is just added to playing for/with others. It’s those key terms that will help you in life. That’s what my dad always taught me was, “be a better man. Have a better attitude. Have your goals and expectations, but just stay focused and everything will figure itself out and the game will come easier once you have those goals down.”
PI: What was their most consistent message to you throughout the recruiting process? What did they try to convey?
MA: Their message was to come in and be a point guard, be a great Villanova point guard that they’ve had in the past. Be a great leader and following other great point guards like Collin Gillespie, Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, Corey Fisher, all those guards that came through. Just being part of the great legacy of guards.
PI: Was their track record of developing pros one of the major factors in why you chose them?
MA: Of course. Coach Wright and the coaching staff, they are amazing at development. Like what they turn someone like Collin Gillespie into — a kid who was a three-star, that no one really knew about. He comes in and works his butt off and now he’s Co-Big East Player of the Year just from him believing in the system, listening to Coach Wright, working hard, and buying into the process.
PI: What was Coach Wright’s reaction when you told him?
MA: He was excited and I was excited that he was excited [laughs]. He was excited that I am going to be the next good Villanova guard. One thing I felt was great about it was we all know it’s going to be a long journey, but a good one. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, but I’m going to have fun and we’re both excited. So I’m thankful to be in this position.
PI: Did you get to know any of the current Villanova players during the recruiting process?
MA: I knew Trey Patterson. I always talked to Trey and have known him since I was younger. Now since I committed I’ve gotten a bunch of texts from players and it just goes to show the legacy and bond these guys have. I felt like I was part of the team and it’s great. I feel the support there.
PI: What will be your focus between now and when you get to campus in 2022?
MA: I’d say my focus is getting my body stronger, that’s the main thing. Second is to keep simplifying my game, getting two to three moves, being more efficient. Third, playing hard and coming with energy and playing defense. Those are the main three things I’m working on in getting ready for college.
PI: What kind of system best fits your strengths as a player?
MA: The way they play together, I like playing with my teammates and unselfishness is a big thing. Villanova’s offense, the way they play together, talk on defense. I feel like anyone could flourish in this system because of them coming together and playing for each other.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
MA: Success can be put in different ways…you can say success would be making the NBA, having a great college career, being the best business partner, that could be your success. Success could be people making a lot of money. How I portray it is if I fulfill my expectations and get better every day, that’s success. You’re not going to have success if you don’t do the little things daily and I feel like that’s success to me.
PI: What do you personally feel you’ll need to accomplish in your career in order for you to become satisfied?
MA: Just winning. Winning is a big thing. That’s what we come together as a team for, it’s what it’s all about. Recruiting and bringing the right players in, coaches. Villanova itself is all about winning, that’s why we make these teams, we come together to bond as a team. So that’s what makes me feel satisfied. Also just playing and leaving everything on the court. If I felt like I did everything I could to win the game and we lost then I’m good and I’m satisfied. It means we’ve still got to work hard to get to the places we want to go. That’s part of getting better every day.
PI: How competitive do you think your generation is?
MA: I feel like my generation, it’s not like we don’t want to win, we do want to win. But so many things are going on at one time. If you lose and score 30 points it’s going to be blasted up on social media, but if you win and you have like 10 points then they don’t really hype it up. I feel like it’s the strength of social media portraying a certain image, but maybe the kid is sad that he lost, but on social media it looks like he’s up because he just had 30 points, but they lost. I know a bunch of guys that had 30 points in a game that were mad that they lost. We lost to Bergen Catholic in the state finals, I had a great game, but we lost. I wanted to win a state championship and I felt bad for the seniors. So those things come into consideration and I feel like we still have that competitive edge in our generation. It’s your version of success and what you’re satisfied about. It’s also about what you’re going for and what’s your why? If I’m playing basketball, what’s your why or what’s your reason for playing basketball? I always keep that question in mind because there’s no point of doing something if you don’t know you’re why. Because I could be playing basketball and like my dad always said, “if you’re playing basketball and you’re not having fun and you don’t have a why then what’s the point of you playing anymore?” That’s why you always keep those questions in your mind — those goals, your success, what you’re striving for, and your expectations.
PI: What would you say is the smartest purchase you’ve ever made?
MA: I would say…well my dad bought it, but we both read it and I think it was a smart purchase. He bought Coach Jay Wright’s book called Attitude. My dad always talks about having an “entrepreneur’s mentality,” not a “consumer's mentality.” So I might be hesitant to buy some sneakers because you can do something else with that money, having that different type of mentality. You’re doing something and paying for something that could benefit from it in the long run, have that equity in it. That’s what my dad always used to tell me. It’s not me buying it, my dad bought it, but I feel like that’s the smartest purchase we made. He always talks about real estate. Things like that, just buying things that have equity in it.
PI: Do you have a favorite book?
MA: I’d say my favorite book is Lord of the Flies, which I read in school, and Malcolm X. Those are my two favorite books I would say. The reason why I say Lord of the Flies is because it’s very action-packed. I feel like as young kids we all can connect, that would be a reasonable situation if we were in that situation. Probably not how it went down, but I feel like you can connect to it and it shows different attributes. Even in basketball, ball is life, you can apply that to any situation, but especially that in the group you have a leader. Chaos going on in the group, being too young like we want to grow up so fast, but you can tell kids are very young at a young age and we need to learn a lot more to be in that type of situation. Survival. So it teaches you different things, like we’re not in that situation, but we can learn from those types of situations from reading the book. I’d say Malcolm X because it’s a non-fiction book and you can connect to it. He grew up in that type of era and we know that time period was crazy and how what he saw and went through you can depict different things and put them in different situations and it will help you with your mind/spirit and bring you together.
PI: Talk about your most embarrassing moment.
MA: I don’t really have any embarrassing moments, just moments that I can learn from. LIke I had a game-winner hit on me and it was posted on Instagram, but I feel like that wasn’t an embarrassment. It was like, “hey you scored on me and I should have played better defense,” that’s how I took it. I didn’t care if it was all over here or there. I had people calling and texting me, sending me the video. I’m like, “hey it was a good bucket. It was a good score.” So that was embarrassing, but I learned a lot from that situation of the power of social media. I learned things about myself, my confidence in myself being in that situation regarding a last-second shot and of what to do next. I learned so many things, but I don’t think that was an embarrassing moment.
PI: Talk about your favorite all-time memory on the basketball court.
MA: I want to say my biggest moment is I had a game-winner against Hudson Catholic. I feel like that really changed my life. With St. Peter’s Prep, that was our first win in like six years [against Hudson Catholic]. I was a freshman, it was a crazy shot, the gym went crazy. I feel like that was my greatest moment. The second-greatest moment of my career is when we played St. Joe’s Montvale. I had like 14 points in a row in the fourth quarter and we won to get to the state championship. I put everything into that game and I feel like those were my two greatest moments in high school.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
MA: I don’t really have pet peeves…that’s a good question. There are times with my friends where I’m like, “yo you’re annoying bro,” but I’m just saying it. Things don’t really bother me unless it’s something competitive. If not I’m like relaxed, things don’t really bother me. Well I’ll say one thing that kind of bothers me. If I’m working out or something like that, like if I missed a shot, you hit two or three in a row, and you miss a shot and people say like, “yo, you gotta do this or that” and I’m like “yo, I missed one shot, I got it I got it.” I feel like, “yo I got it I got it,” but like I said, you’ve got to be open to criticism. I don’t get bothered by that because everybody is going to say something and you’ll always have criticism, but I’ll say that’s one thing where I’m like, “yo I missed one shot, I got you. I know my basics” [laughs]. That’s one thing I would say. I’ll say one more thing I don’t like is if I’m relaxing and I’m in a mode and sitting back watching TV and someone comes down your way and just says a random thing like just asking me to do something. I’m like, “where does this even come from?” like we were just talking about something else and that doesn’t add up. Like they go from this to that quick. Let me settle down, I’m relaxing.
PI: Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your life up to this point?
MA: My dad. Just from him working hard, everything was about working hard. He gets on me a lot, but it’s tough love from my dad. I see what he does to get me better and provides for the family. He gets up in the morning and goes to work. He gets off and drives me everywhere to workout, getting my schedule set for basketball, seeing when I have interviews. And it’s like, “wow he’s doing this for me” I feel like he’s my biggest role model. Then my mom, my sister, and on top of that the people come into my life who want to help me out. All of my basketball trainers, they’re like a spitting image of my dad and have the same attitude and it’s crazy how people come into your life for a reason. My dad especially is my biggest role model.
PI: Would you say you rely more on your natural talent and ability or on your work ethic?
MA: My work ethic because I was always fast, could run, and liked to jump. I always liked to do stuff and always thought it was fun to do it, but I always relied on my hard work. People feel like I get frustrated, but I know I’ve been putting so much time into doing it that I want this result. I’ve been working on my jump shot, my dribble, so if I mess up on a little thing...like I could be playing pickup basketball and I might lose the ball and I’m like, “Mark why are you doing that?” because I know I put so much work and time into this game. I do this for a reason, so if this happens then why is it happening? So I feel like I should get back in the gym, re-tool up, and keep working.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
MA: A lot of people I look up to — my dad, my mom, my grandparents. Just how we came together as a family and have a beautiful family. We all corroborate with each other. I feel like I’m blessed to be in this situation with my family because not everyone has the best family situation. I look up to all of the coaches that have come into my life. I’ll say Coach Pete, Coach Phil, Coach Haas, Coach Berry, I can’t even name them all. Those are like the four guys I’ll say off the top of my head, but those are the guys I look up to and could call anytime like, “hey uncle let me do this or that. I need help with this.” So those are the guys I look up to.
PI: Talk about a time or story in your life that you feel has really shaped who you are today.
MA: I sat the bench my seventh grade year AAU. I saw everything in one thing...politics, playing time. I saw everything that could go wrong happened to me in that situation and I felt like that shaped me into who I am. Getting my mentality very strong, seeing it for what it is, and not getting mad or emotional. Being strategic about it and just getting in the gym. That’s how I got my grit and just wanting to get in the gym. I’m not worried about this or that. That’s the time I always come back to, like, “yo I was that kid who was always on the bench” and I’m going to keep working and keep working because this could be me any second.
PI: How have you handled and responded to adversity in your life?
MA: I feel like I’ve responded great. Just going through being the kid who got in trouble in school, getting in trouble with my parents, doing this. Being myself, but not knowing how to control myself. I feel like I handled it well, correcting my mistakes and just keep moving forward and being the positive in the situation because whatever situation I’m in I’m in for a reason and I have to work through it. If it’s a good situation then hey let’s go, but it’s going to get bumpy again and you’re going to have to fight through it because there’s always going to be a bump in the road as you grow up in life.
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
MA: First thing I would do is go to my parents and ask them, “hey what should I do?” because I’ve never had $10 million in my bank account. When you get like Christmas money you want to spend it on something else, that’s what all kids want to do, but that’s a different type of thinking. That’s the thinking I have to start developing when you get to that level. Even if it’s basketball, working with a company, entrepreneurism, anything. Like if I get $1 million how can I make it $10 million? Or I get $10 million, how can I make it $100 million? So that’s a hard question, but I feel like my first purchase would be something that I could make money back off of. I would probably invest in something that’s going up. Get a nice house, not too expensive of a house. If I was at the right age I would get a nice house. Not even buy a car, I’ll ask my parents, “what do you think about this car or that car?” But we always talked about leasing cars as the best investment. You’re not going to be driving that much so how about leasing a car. Especially with $10 million dollars, you put some of that money into something and you’ve got money just growing and you’re not wasting all of your money on a car, you’re just leasing it. Then you have money flowing in different ways and you’re not wasting your money.
PI: Do you have a dream car?
MA: I don’t really have a dream car, but there are a bunch of cars. My dad is a car guy, so I’d say from the top of the top, like Bugatti, McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Maserati, Infiniti, Lexus...there are a bunch of cars out there where it’s like, “yo that’s a tough car.” Even Honda and Toyota have some cars out there that they change up and make a special edition. It’s like, “this car is this much and it’s a Toyota?” Cars like that, like, “oh that car is nice.” I don’t really care about the name, I care about what the car is. Like the material, what was the purpose of the car being made, why are you making that car, why is it this much? Different things that go into the car. It’s like that with anything — sneakers, clothes — like why are you paying $1000 for a shirt? I’m not going to pay $1000 just because it’s a name [brand] one. I was watching a video my dad sent me about Rob Gronkoswki and how he didn’t buy anything. He didn’t buy a car, he’s got a nice house. He’s a simple guy, like he doesn’t need this and he said, “I have my money growing and I bought myself a nice diamond chain” and it was like $10,000 for a tennis chain because it was diamonds and he was like “I’m good. I don’t need a car or this,” but it’s funny how people have different philosophies.
PI: What are you most passionate about outside of the game of basketball?
MA: Just being with my friends and enjoying life. That’s the main thing, just being happy and doing what I love to do. If that’s going outside, playing in the park, and going on the swings to being inside reading a book. Or I’m doing go-karts, or at Six Flags, or I’m sitting meditating, or watching TV, or watching the championship game. Something that’s fun and relaxing my mind. Anything that is relaxing my mind and taking it off something that is stressing me out. Or not even stressing me out, but separating business from fun. I just want to get away from that and have a good time, even going on vacation. Just something to relax your body and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
PI: Do you play video games?
MA: No I don’t really play video games. My friends always make fun of me about that. I don’t really play video games. I can really just sit down and watch YouTube videos all day, eat some food, and watch some TV, watch some basketball, being on the phone with my friends all day. Something like that, just relaxing because half the time I’m playing basketball and doing homework so that’s my time to relax. I’d say this is my favorite thing to do if there’s nothing going on with my friends on a Friday night: just come in the house, get some good food, get a nice snack or dessert, watch like my favorite movie and I’m good. I’ll do that or I’ll just go in the house and be on the phone with my friends. Be all over IG, just bug out and have fun. That’s one thing I like about my friends is that we find anything that’s fun. So we can go to different situations and make it fun. We can go outside and there’s no one out there and we’re going to make it fun just by ourselves [laughs]. That’s one thing I feel like is good about us is we can make anything enjoyable.
PI: Are you working through any shows or movies on Netflix?
MA: That show I was watching over quarantine is Arrow, that’s a good series. I love that series and I was so engrossed into that. Because I was never really a shows person, but I was like “let me just try it out, it’s Arrow, it’s action packed” and I was watching it and I was like, “yo this is good!” I like the beginning better because it was more realistic, but it started getting more fictional.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
MA: I can’t choose my path I would say, but I would figure it out as I go through it. I would ask, “how could I better myself in this situation?” If I was a pro, an NBA career is very unpredictable. You don’t know when you’re going to leave the team or none of that. So you’ve got to be focused every day, what you want to do, what are your expectations, and your goals so you don’t get lost in the mix or chaos. I want to get into finance and business. So me and my parents are going to start sitting down and talk with other people we know about finance. We want to sit down and talk about financial literacy and stuff like that.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
MA: Outgoing. Intelligent. Thinking. Active. I’ll say outgoing because I’m going to talk to everybody. If I see you then I’ll say hello; if you come up to me I’m going to talk to you. I’ll say thinking because I think things through. Sometimes my dad says “you always think things through,” but if I don’t think things through, then why am I doing it? Intelligent, based on my thought process. Common sense is what I mean by intelligence — what’s your actions, what’s your choices, are you making good decisions, what are you doing to better your mind? So that’s what I’ll say about intelligence. Active, I like to have fun. Let’s get it on, that’s me, let’s go! [laughs]. What you want to do? That’s what I mean by active.
PI: If someone were to write a book or a movie about your life, what would be the title?
MA: Everyone Has Their Own Path. That would be my title. I feel like whatever you do or whatever you’re going into, like no situation is better than someone else’s situation. Like I’ll say if I’m going to Villanova and so and so is going to here, he might end up in a better situation than me and I’m going to Villanova. Everyone has their own path and I might be the one doing something else and I might go left. So that’s why I say “everyone has their own path” and don’t look at someone else’s path and say “oh he’s better than me, I got to go his way.” No, stay on your course and see what’s going on around you and set your own expectations. Everyone has their own path. I’m a late-bloomer, some people are early-bloomers, like, “oh he’s nice in the 5th grade.” I didn’t get noticed until I was a freshman in high school and some people aren’t going to get noticed until they’re in college. So it’s different paths and no one's path is better than someone else's. It’s just when you pop and what do you want to do and what are you focused on.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
MA: Just a guy that put in hard work to get to where he’s at. Put in hard work, built his connections, giving back to the community, and being a great person, overall. That’s what I want to be remembered as. And having respect from everyone around the world.
Watch the full interview with Mark, here