Ohio State guard Malaki Branham was selected 20th overall in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, marking the first time a Buckeye has been taken in the first round since D’Angelo Russell went second overall in 2015. Forward EJ Liddell was selected in the second round by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 41st pick overall.
Branham was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year this past season for the Buckeyes. He averaged 13.7 points per game while starting 31 of OSU’s 32 games. He shot 53.0% from two-point territory, 41.6% from three-point range, and made 83.3% of his free throws. In Big Ten play, he scored 16.3 points per game.
Branham scored at least 20 points in seven conference games this past season, with a career-high 35 points at Nebraska in January. Over his last 10 games this past season, Branham averaged 20.2 points per game.
He is the first Buckeye to be drafted by the Spurs since forward Deshaun Thomas in 2013.
Liddell averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 2.5 assists per game this past season. He is only the third player in the last 30 years to average numbers like that, joining Jason Thompson of Rider and Tim Duncan of Wake Forest. He earned All-American accolades in 2021-2022 and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection.
Liddell scored in double figures in every game this past season and had 13 games of 20 or more points. He became the 33rd Buckeye in program history with 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds. He finished with 1,298 career points, which is 32nd on the program’s all-time scoring list. Liddell is also seventh in school history with 143 career blocks.
Ohio State was hoping to have a pair of players selected in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft for the fourth time in school history, but Liddell unexpected slid into the second round.
In fact, based on mock drafts and projections, both players slid a bit from where many had them going. Branham was seen as a possible lottery pick and Liddell was thought to be a lock by some point in the 20s.
Regardless, it was still a thrilling and happy night for both players, who have now each achieved a life-long dream.