Pepperdine’s Mallette shooting for more wins

Pepperdine guard Houston Mallette, now a sophomore, is shown in action during the 2021-22 season. Photo by Morgan Davenport.

Pepperdine Waves men’s basketball player Houston Mallette was unsure how much dribbling and shooting he would do in games heading into the Waves’ first contest of his freshman season nearly a year ago. 

Mallette started Pepperdine’s game against the Rice Owls on the bench, but early foul trouble for the Waves resulted in the 6-foot-5 guard subbing into the contest early and getting more playing time than expected. 

Mallette scored a team-high 18 points, including five three-pointers, and dished out five assists in 37 minutes in the Lone Star State arena. Pepperdine lost the game though, 82-63.

“You just get in the game and you play,” Mallette recalled. That he did. All season long. 

Mallette finished the 2021-22 campaign as the Waves’ top scorer at 13.6 points a game. He also led the team with 71 three-pointers. He was named to the West Coast Conference All-Freshman team, along with teammates Maxwell Lewis and Mike Mitchell Jr. Mallette was named to the preseason All-WCC team on Oct. 6. 

Despite his personal success, Pepperdine finished the year with a 7-25 record. The group closed the season with a seven-game losing streak. The Waves were picked to finish seventh in the 10-team WCC this season by the league’s coaches. Perennial powerhouse Gonzaga was predicted to finish first. Pepperdine was sandwiched between Santa Clara and San Diego in the poll. Mallette described his first collegiate hoops season as a storm because the Waves never found chemistry on the court. 

“It was really bad,” he said. “We didn’t click. It was a lot of different situations we were in. You learn from it; you grow from it. That feeling we all had as a team last year sits with us. It tells us now it is time to go out and compete. I don’t want to feel like we did last year.” 

Mallette was a standout player at Pacifica Christian High School in Newport Beach. He was a McDonald’s All-American nominee in 2021 and a three-

time All-CIF Southern Section first-team player. Mallette also graduated summa cum laude and was on the dean’s list. Waves head coach Lorenzo Romar began recruiting Mallette to Malibu when the player was a 10th-grader. Mallette decided to attend Pepperdine because of the trusting relationship he developed with Romar and his assistant coaches. 

The 19-year-old scored in double-figures 19 times and had eight 20-point games as a first-year college hoopster. Mallette’s season high was a 31-point outing against BYU, the fourth-best scoring showcase ever by a Pepperdine freshman. He also hit a three-pointer in 26 straight contests. However, personal recognition, the sophomore said, isn’t important. 

“What matters to me is being a great teammate, being a leader,” Mallette said. “Those things matter to me. Being someone my teammates can talk to about anything.” 

Mallette wants to be known more as a defender than an offensive player. 

“I want to be WCC Defensive Player of the Year,” he said. “That is more important — being able to guard, rebound — things of that nature. The good thing is we have multiple people on the team with that same attitude.” 

The 19-year-old said the Waves, led by head coach Lorenzo Romar, want to stop opponents from scoring consistently. 

“We need to make our identity defensive,” Mallette said. “We have to bring it everyday and be passionate about what we do. All the guys love each other; we love playing for one another;and we get along really well.” 

Pepperdine’s season began on Oct. 14 with Orange & Blue Madness at the university’s Firestone Fieldhouse. The team will host Rice to tip-off the regular season on Nov. 7. 

The Waves’ 15-man roster is young. There are only three upperclassmen — senior Jan Zidek, graduate student Jay Yoon, and redshirt junior Majok Deng. The rest are sophomores and freshmen. 

Mallette said Pepperdine must improve from last season and learn how to win. 

“Twenty-five losses are a lot of losses,” he said. “I look back at those games and shake my head. It has to be better. The result we want as a team is to win.”