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Penn State basketball commit Houston Mallette is Cali-bred with Jersey roots; dad worked for Barbour

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In the nine years Patrick Chambers has been coaching Penn State basketball, he hasn’t exactly overloaded on classic jump shooters. Athletes, yes. Defenders, yes. Playmakers, a couple. Shotmakers, sure.

But the deadeye 3-point sniper with the perfect stroke? Not really one.

The best-looking shot probably belongs to current rising junior Myles Dread. But he’s been erratic with his accuracy. The most accurate, Shep Garner and Tony Carr and now Myreon Jones all had/have quirky releases, not exactly fluid, a couple who pushed from their chins.

So, the latest commitment to PSU hoops is something of a departure. It’s not as if there won’t be some risk involved in signing Los Angeles-area guard Houston Mallette. He’s far from a sure thing.

Mallette has a scrawny physique that’ll need three daily protein shakes and a lot of shoulder-bi-tri weight work. His handle, while slick, is a little high and loose and subvertable by better on-ball defenders. And it remains to be seen if you can keep him on the floor at the defensive end.

But, man, that jump shot. It is silk. Quick, high release. Balanced like a carpenter’s level every time. Effortless fluid stroke, absent of any hitch. It’s a joy to watch.

The 6-4, 165-pound Mallette, a 17-year-old rising senior from Newport Beach, Calif., is a long-armed guard of the sort Chambers does not usually attract – slight of build, more ethereal in style, a little dab of Steph Curry rather than the pit bulls he so often prefers.

Mallette is the second Class-of-2021 PSU commitment in as many weeks who fills a very specific need rather than being the overall athlete Chambers has frequently signed. PSU received a commit earlier this month from burly Camden, N.J., power forward TáQuan Woodley.

Mallette’s list of serious suitors consisted mainly of West Coast mid-majors of the Long Beach State, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount strata with one Pac-12 offer from Washington State mixed in. He played for Pacifica Christian High and had hooked on with Under Armour’s prestigious West Coast Elite AAU club for this summer before the COVID-19 pandemic blew up those plans.

But more influential high-majors were becoming intrigued, including Villanova. Chambers and lead recruiter Keith Urgo decided to beat them to the punch and are taking a bit of a reach here, gambling that Mallette’s physique will catch up with his advanced intelligence and blossoming skill set.

That, and the kid just looks like a scorer. He was a prolific >40% 3-point bomber last season and his fluid quick-trigger delivery mixed with a nice array of flips and scoops off the bounce looks built for point production.

And, as for Mallette’s jumper and general vibe, former Orange County Register and Long Beach Press-Telegram college basketball writer and current college and NBA talent consultant Frank Burlison reached back for a style comparison when we spoke by phone on Tuesday:

“I’m not at all saying he’ll be as good. But he does remind me a lot of Miles Simon when he was at Mater Dei [High School]. Same kind of body, same kind of wiry wingspan. The way he can shoot it with range and his cleverness.”

The question is, what happens when physical Big Ten-body defenders get in his grill. He has struggled with such tactics, partly because his wispy build is not yet adept at busting double-teams or powering through cut corners. That could come with maturity.

Longtime West Coast event coordinator and talent scout Dinos Trigonis, editor of NothingButNet Magazine, assessed Mallette when we spoke on Tuesday: “I think he’s an underrated player nationally. A big guard who hasn’t peaked physically yet. Kinda scrawny, but very talented and skilled enough to play on or off the ball.

“I have him as a high-major-minus. He has the size and that’s part of what gives him very good long-term potential. I think he’s a Top-150-caliber player.”

Interestingly, Mallette is the son of Cal-Riverside athletic director Wes Mallette, a well-traveled communications specialist who’s worked for everyone from Les Wexner’s L Brands (The Limited, Victoria’s Secret, Bed Bath & Body Works) to MTV to the Pac-12 Network to Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour as her media/branding specialist when she was AD at Cal. Wes Mallette received his Masters in journalism from Maryland.

Mallette’s extended family has deep roots in New Jersey and Virginia, many of his relatives still live along the I-95 corridor and his father obtained his undergrad degree at James Madison. Hence, Mallette’s matriculation to college in the East isn’t as incongruous as it may appear.

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