Sayveon Armstrong’s nickname is “Ghost.” It comes from him wandering off in a Nike store in Idaho a few summers ago while his club basketball team was up there for a tournament.
When he popped up, the coaches wondered where he went.
“You’re like a ghost on and off the court,” one coach told him.
If by “ghost on the court,” the coach means that Armstrong disappears during games, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Rather, he has the ghostly element of being difficult to guard.
Anyone in the 2A classification knows about Armstrong, who averaged 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.2 steals per game last year as the point guard for St. Joseph Catholic’s boys basketball team.
As gaudy as this year’s statistics are, Armstrong says he doesn’t care about them, which would be hard for anyone to do.
Through 17 games, Armstrong is averaging 31.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.1 steals per game while shooting 67% from the floor, 55% from 3-point range and 87% from the free throw line.
He has three 40-point scoring games this year. The 31.1 points per game — Armstrong by far takes the most shots of anyone on the team — leads the state. The Jayhawks have a record of 8-9.
“I’d rather have a scoreless undefeated season then have the most points in the state and not get wins,” Armstrong said after a recent practice.
“It’s great for me, but like I said, I’d rather get the wins because for me it’s just not about scoring.”
All of this is for a point guard who stands 5-foot-7 “on a good day.”
For Armstrong, game preparation has become a bigger priority this season since he’s scoring more in games this year, thus increasing the physical toll he takes.
He says he starts preparing for games the night before, shoots hoops in the morning before games, later that afternoon before games, goes home, rests and heads to the gym if it’s a home game.
This year, Armstrong has been watching Kobe Bryant motivational videos before every game as a way to help him focus.
Like many others, Armstrong was stunned at the recent news of Kobe Bryant’s death. Bryant served as an idol to millions of basketball players across the country.
“The way he looked at the game, his attention to detail, the way he would practice. He would put 100% effort into everything,” Armstrong said.
“That attention to detail is what I’ve tried to model most with my game.”
After each game, Armstrong says he can’t settle down unless he watches film of said game to break down what he did wrong or what he and his teammates can improve upon.
“The adrenaline from the game continues until I can see what I did wrong, what I could fix from certain situations, but that’s just me,” he said.
That’s a new wrinkle to his game preparation this season. Last year, a couple of colleges reached out for game film, but St. Joseph only had a handful of games with which to edit from to send to the colleges.
Most every game is filmed now and Armstrong figured that, since he had the film, he might as well take advantage of it and watch.
An overwhelming amount of Armstrong’s points come inside the 3-point line, and a fair portion of his 2-pointers come from midrange, the “dead art” that basketball teams at all levels are trending away from in lieu of layups and 3-pointers.
“You tax yourself being at your size going to the rim a lot. If you really want longevity, you’ve got to develop a good midrange shot,” said Demarkco Armstrong, Sayveon’s dad and an assistant coach at St. Joseph.
A lot of teams are content giving up midrange looks so they can better guard the 3-point line and the higher-percentage shots near the rim.
Some college teams even run zone defenses specifically geared to dare teams to shoot midrange shots.
The applicable basketball axiom in that situation is taking what the defense gives, which is how Sayveon Armstrong operates.