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Pacifica Christian O.C. High point guard Houston Mallette signs with Pepperdine

Pacifica Christian basketball point guard Houston Mallette signed a letter of intent  to attend Pepperdine University.
Pacifica Christian Orange County High point guard Houston Mallette speaks before signing his letter of intent with Pepperdine University in the school’s gymnasium on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The first words that Pacifica Christian Orange County boys’ basketball coach Jeff Berokoff used in introducing senior guard Houston Mallette on Thursday afternoon were the simplest.

“I love you,” Berokoff said, repeating it a couple of times.

Berokoff called Mallette the most impactful player the Tritons have had in their young program, before rattling off that Mallette will end up as the program’s all-time leader in points, assists, rebounds and three-pointers made.

But his leadership goes beyond that, as the only senior in the program this year. It also extends to the classroom, where Mallette has a 3.96 grade-point average.

There’s a lot to love about Mallette, who shared his college plans at a signing ceremony in the Pacifica Christian gymnasium. Mallette announced his commitment to play men’s basketball at Pepperdine University, before signing his national letter of intent to join the Waves and coach Lorenzo Romar.

Seniors from Corona del Mar, Edison, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Marina, Mater Dei, Newport Harbor, Pacifica Christian O.C. and Santa Margarita signed or committed to continue playing their sport with a college on fall signing day.

It makes sense that a Triton would choose the Waves. Even the school’s color schemes both have orange and blue in them.

“I’ve stayed in close contact with [Romar],” Mallette said. “I really love him a lot, and on top of that, the academic piece is fantastic … It should be a lot of fun.”

Pacifica Christian Orange County High boys' basketball coach Jeff Berokoff, left, shares a few words Thursday.
Pacifica Christian Orange County High boys’ basketball coach Jeff Berokoff, left, shares a few words before point guard Houston Mallette, left, announces the college he will attend after graduating high school.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mallette, a two-time first-team All-San Joaquin League, two-time Daily Pilot Dream Team and two-time All-CIF Southern Section selection, had to pivot quickly. He had committed to Penn State in May but recently decommitted after Nittany Lions coach Pat Chambers resigned amidst controversy on Oct. 21.

Mallette, who averaged 15.7 points, seven rebounds and 4.9 assists per game as a junior, had plenty of other options. His father Wes, a senior associate athletics director at UC Riverside, said Houston was contacted by 41 colleges after decommitting from Penn State.

Pepperdine and Loyola of Chicago rose to the top, but he ultimately chose to stay in Southern California with the Waves.

Wes Mallette, who married Houston’s stepmother Onita Mihley last year, moved with Houston from the Bay Area to Southern California in 2018 when he got the UC Riverside job. Houston had just completed his freshman year at Salesian College Prep in Richmond, helping the Pride go 30-2 and win the CIF North Coast Section Division 3 title.

“That move was really hard,” Wes Mallette said. “You’re leaving Salesian, everything you know is in the Bay, and you’re coming down here to a program that is really just starting. I said, ‘This is an opportunity for you to make an impact, help the program grow and help build a culture within the school.’ You know, I’m so proud of him. Every day being his dad is a fun day.”

Houston said he’s excited to team up again with Mike Mitchell, a 6-3 guard who signed with Pepperdine from Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose. Mallette and Mitchell played together for two years in eighth and ninth grade, on the Oakland Soldiers club basketball team.

Pacifica Christian Orange County's Houston Mallette, bottom center, smiles with family members on Thursday.
Pacifica Christian Orange County High boys’ basketball point guard Houston Mallette, bottom center, is shown with family members, father Wes Mallette, bottom left, and mother Nicole Harris, bottom right, with, top from left, stepsister Soledad, stepmother Onita Mallette, stepsister Nola, sister Holland Harris and stepfather Bethel Harris after signing his letter of intention with Pepperdine University in his school’s gymnasium on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Mallette said he wants to end his high school career with the Tritons on a winning note. Pacifica Christian made the CIF Southern Section Division 2A quarterfinals last year and shared its first league title in program history but lost seven seniors to graduation, including Dream Team Player of the Year Judah Brown, who’s now at St. Mary’s College.

“My biggest thing this year is that I want to get guys to believe they can do something they don’t believe they can do right now,” Mallette said.

“I want to get them to believe in the unimaginable. I feel like that’s how we’ll be able to win. I had the opportunity to transfer, and turned all of [the schools] down. I’m loyal to Jeff Berokoff and I love him, and I just want to be able to go out here and win games, show these guys as a senior leader just how great a team we can be. I’m excited for that.”

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