The best player in the Buckeye State in staying home.
Malaki Branham, a borderline five-star recruit bound for Ohio State this summer, was honored as Ohio Mr. Basketball on Wednesday for his standout senior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary which concluded with a 37-point performance in the state championship game.
He follows Walnut Ridge's VonCameron Davis who won the award last year and becomes the first future Buckeye to earn it since Westerville South's Kaleb Wesson. Eleven honorees went on to play for Ohio State – Jimmy Jackson, Greg Simpson, Damon Stringer, Tony Stockman, Jamar Butler, Jon Diebler, William Buford, Jared Sullinger, Marc Loving, Wesson and Branham – since it was created in 1988.
Not since LeBron James nearly two decades ago has a player from St. Vincent-St. Mary been named Ohio Mr. Basketball. But Branham, a top-30 recruit nationally, became the runaway favorite by leading the Irish to a state title.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 21.3 points per game, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game on a team that went 25-2.
“To be on this list with LeBron just shows me that there is more work to be done,” Branham told the Akron Beacon Journal. “It makes me understand that there are more goals I want to accomplish and it's going to make me work even harder than ever and not let anyone or anything get in my way.”
Chris Livingston, a junior from Buchtel and five-star prospect, was the runner-up for the award. The other finalists were Kobe Johnson of Canton McKinley, Luke Chicone of Mentor, Desmond Watson of Columbus DeSales, Kobe Rodgers of St. Xavier, George Mangas of Lima Shawnee and Kobe Mitchell of Cadiz Harrison Central.
Ohio Mr. Basketball winners
2021 - Malaki Branham, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2020 - VonCameron Davis, Columbus Walnut Ridge
2019 - Samari Curtis, Xenia
2018 - Dane Goodwin, Upper Arlington
2017 - Kaleb Wesson, Westerville South
2016 - Zavier Simpson, Lima Senior
2015 - Luke Kennard, Franklin High School
2014 - Luke Kennard, Franklin High School
2013 - Marc Loving, Toledo St. John's Jesuit
2012 - Justin Fritts, Mentor
2011 - Trey Burke, Columbus Northland
2010 - Jared Sullinger, Columbus Northland
2009 - Jared Sullinger, Columbus Northland
2008 - William Buford, Toledo Libbey
2007 - Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky
2006 - O.J. Mayo, North College Hill
2005 - O.J. Mayo, North College Hill
2004 - Jamar Butler, Lima Shawnee
2003 - LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2002 - LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2001 - LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2000 - (tie) Tony Stockman, Medina; Chester Mason, Cleveland South
1999 - Isaac Jefferson, Columbus West
1998 - William "Sonny" Johnson, Garfield Heights
1997 - Kenny Gregory, Independence
1996 - Jason Collier, Springfield Catholic
1995 - Damon Stringer, Cleveland Heights
1994 - Aaron Hutchins, Lima Central Catholic
1993 - Geno Ford, Cambridge
1992 - Greg Simpson, Lima Senior
1991 - Greg Simpson, Lima Senior
1990 - Bob Patton Jr., Youngstown Liberty
1989 - Jimmy Jackson, Toledo Macomber
1988 - Jimmy Jackson, Toledo Macomber