Ohio State freshman guard Malaki Branham announced today that he is entering his name into the 2022 NBA Draft.
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.
The deadline to drop out of the draft and return to school is June 1. Branham could still opt for this route should the scouting process warrant it.
Branham shot .530 from two-point territory this season, .416 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, 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.
Branham has been projected as a first-round draft pick by many. In fact, USA Today and NBADraft.net both have Branham being selected in the top 10, while The Ringer has him going No. 18 overall to the Indiana Pacers.
Branham’s potential departure is a huge blow to the Ohio State basketball program as they could now have lost their two best players (EJ Liddell) to the NBA. And for the second year in a row, OSU head coach Chris Holtmann has lost his top scoring guard (Duane Washington) earlier than expected.
Holtmann is bringing in a talented recruiting class, which features Roddy Gayle, who is the No. 4 shooting guard in the nation. Ohio State is also adding 3-star shooting guard Bowen Hardman out of Cincinnati Princeton.
Even though this possibility became greater and greater as the season went on, this is still an unexpected loss as it relates to the long-term plans of the Ohio State basketball program.
The irony is that the injury to forward Justice Sueing this season and the early departure of Duane Washington forced Ohio State to rely heavily on Branham, and while it paid off on the court, it has now ultimately cost the program as well.
[Malaki Branham header photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept. of Athletics.]