The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn men's basketball’s Mark Jackson 15 questions about his sport, his time at Penn, and his life overall. Here's what the senior had to say.
1. Can you introduce yourself in a few sentences?
My name is Mark Jackson. I'm a senior at Penn. I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah, and I am studying finance and healthcare management.
2. Go-to fun fact?
My go to fun fact is that I am 7-foot-3. So I'm in the 99.99th percentile for height. Over the phone, you can’t see it.
3. Can you tell me an interesting fact or story related to you being really tall?
The biggest thing is I think there’s probably thousands of photos of me out there on the internet and on people’s phones because I get asked for photos all the time. Sometimes I’ll think about it and be like, ‘I wonder how many random people just have a photo of me on their phone?’ I think that’s pretty unique, but just given the thousands of photos I’ve taken with people over the years, I imagine there’s quite a few out there.
4. How did you get into basketball?
Growing up, I was always really tall, so I played a bunch of sports. I played soccer, baseball, football, and basketball. Just being really tall, I started only playing basketball. And the rest is history.
5. If you’re not playing basketball, what are you doing?
I love to read. I read a lot of books. I really like video games, too, so I’m playing a lot of Warzone right now.
6. Favorite book?
No favorite book. It’s hard to narrow one down. I think up there is definitely "Crime and Punishment." That’s the one I’m thinking about. Not sure I can say it’s my favorite, but it’s one of my top favorites.
7. What’s your quarantine experience been like in terms of training for basketball?
It’s definitely been different. Especially considering that right now we normally would be playing games and starting the season. I think for me, I've been going on more runs than I normally would, doing more pushups in my room, and doing a lot of yoga trying to stay flexible. It’s definitely been different and harder to find a gym to workout in. But we’re making do with what we've got for now and seeing how things play out.
Right now, we’re not allowed to do anything official on campus. Sometimes [the team] will do workouts together outside — try to stay socially distanced and wear masks. In terms of actual Penn-organized stuff, we’re not allowed to do anything right now.
8. What aspect of your game are you trying to work on the most right now?
Just working on my body, trying to get more athletic. I’m working a lot with my cardio and endurance to make sure that I’m ready to play. The other part is the yoga aspect of trying to stay flexible and making sure that I will be ready to go and not get injured.
9. Last season obviously came to an abrupt end. What needs to happen with the team for you all to have success in the future?
I think basically we just need to just stay focused on our goal. And obviously our goal every year is to win the Ivy League championship and to make it to March Madness. I think everyone is all focused on that same goal and if we’re all working really hard and working hard as a team together, I think anything is possible.
10. What was your "Welcome to the NCAA" moment?
My sophomore year, I was injured and then I came back from my injury. When we were at Harvard [that year], unexpectedly, I was called off the bench and thrown into the middle of a very close and competitive game. I just went out there and played. That was kinda the first time there were high stakes on the line and it was pretty exciting.
11. What, in your opinion, is the most underrated skill in basketball?
One of the most important things is being able to be selfless. That comes across in a lot of different ways, whether it’s high-fiving other people, picking other people off the ground — and passing the ball is obviously a big part of that. If you have five people that are out on the court and they don’t care about their own individual statistics or if they score — they just care about the team winning — I think that’s going to be the most successful team.
12. Favorite teammate/coach you’ve had and why?
I’ve definitely been close with Coach Graham. He’s kinda the coach that works with the big men — the centers, the power forwards. So I’ve definitely spent a lot of time with him going over film, talking about basketball, and talking about ways to improve. I also think Coach Graham does a really good job of thinking about the student-athlete experience holistically. I definitely look up to him and have learned so much over the last three and a half years. I am definitely grateful for his leadership and mentorship.
13. Favorite memory from Penn so far, whether from basketball or otherwise?
After my freshman year, we took a trip as a basketball team over to Italy. That was obviously amazing, we got to spend a couple of weeks over there, played a couple of games, and just spent time seeing Rome, the Vatican, Milan, and Lake Como. That was a great bonding experience for all of us. We were able to see some of the sights and be with our best friends while doing it.
14. Do you have a favorite professional athlete?
I’d say Joe Ingles. I just love that when you look at him, you definitely don't think "pretty good NBA player," and I love that he can just come in and out-shoot almost anyone in the NBA. He’s also a great athlete and a good defender. I love that about him. And I also think he’s integrated within the community and definitely does a lot for Utah and is really focused on making an impact.
15. What advice would you give to someone trying to motivate themselves to train with COVID-19 still looming?
I think the best thing is to be creative. Don’t be afraid to try new things. For me it was me doing random defensive slides in my driveway at home. Running around the block or finding sets of stairs in my neighborhood that I could run up and down. Just thinking outside the box and finding ways to stay in shape. I think if you look and aren’t restricting yourself too much you can definitely find ways to stay fit, even though it’s not as easy as pre-COVID times.