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High Intelligence & Physicality Make Jalen Pickett Unique NBA Draft Prospect

Two years ago, Jalen Pickett was beginning preseason workouts with his new team, Penn State men’s basketball, after a prosperous three-year stint at Siena.

Now, as Pickett prepares for the 2023 NBA Draft two years later, the 23-year-old boasts All-American status, prestige as the only Divison I men’s college basketball player to average 17/7/6 while shooting 50% from the field since 1993, and the weight of one of the most inspiring year-to-year turnarounds in Penn State basketball history.

Pickett adjusted in strides from the MAAC conference to challenging Power Six play, and should that improvement and acclimation continue into the NBA, the 6’4″, 209-pound point guard will be an asset to any team.

Upon arrival in Happy Valley, Pickett fine-tuned his output to adapt to Big Ten play and increased his numbers to 14.3 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game throughout his first conference slate after previously averaging 10.2 points, 4.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds in non-conference play in 2021-22.

While adaptability is granted in a prospect like Pickett, his intelligence and ability to command the hardwood make him stand out. As a point guard and floor general, the born leader radiates opportunities to second-option shooters when “booty ball” or muscle can only go so far in the post.

Pickett is at his best when surrounded by a skilled three-point specialist or more height in the post. While the untraditional back-to-the-basket tactic has largely worked for Pickett throughout his collegiate career, it may not translate well into the professional leagues. Because of that uniqueness, consistency at center and on the perimeter provides flexibility for Pickett’s guard style and allows open shots when the floor leader is double-teamed.

Meanwhile, his proficient decision-making between utilizing second options and taking the shot is proven by his career 2,207 points and 841 assists. Moreover, despite some lack in size, the guard manufactures rebounds more so than similar position players without crashing the boards too often, maximizing carefully-curated transitional plays and fastbreak opportunities.

Although the point guard isn’t set up for a three-point shot often, Pickett can typically knock them down, too, and recorded a 34.7% completion percentage throughout his two seasons at Penn State.

Although Pickett’s aforementioned booty ball may be too unconventional for some teams, it’s still what defines and dominates the Nittany Lion’s style and scouting report. Though the NBA dictates its five-second rule to limit a player’s back to the basket, Pickett’s efficient thinking and quick release should compensate for decreased reliance on muscle in the post.

Pickett is expected to hear his name called in the second round of this year’s draft around the same time as teammate Seth Lundy. Should both Nittany Lions get called, they’ll become the first pair of Penn State men’s basketball players to be drafted in the same year.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a senior from Richmond, Virginia, majoring in journalism. She's an associate editor and talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State, too. You can usually find her on a porch, but if not, feel free to contact Keeley on Twitter @keeleylammm or [email protected].

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