Malaki Branham To Keep His Name in NBA Draft, Not Return To Ohio State For Second Season

By Griffin Strom on April 27, 2022 at 1:07 pm

Malaki Branham is officially one and done at Ohio State.

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who declared for the NBA draft while maintaining his college eligibility back on April 1, announced Wednesday at a press conference that he will not be back for a sophomore season with the Buckeyes after all.

As a widely projected first-round selection, Branham will keep him name in the NBA draft process before the NBA draft combine process gets underway on May 16. Branham told Eleven Warriors this past Saturday that he still wanted "more feedback" from the NBA before making a final decision, but it appears the Columbus native feels confident about where he will land in the draft come the end of June.

Branham told ESPN upon declaring for the draft at the beginning of the month that he would remain in the draft if he expected to be a first-round selection.

“I love them guys in that locker room, I built a great bond with them throughout the year,” Branham said about his Buckeye teammates on Saturday. “Like I said, I really wanted to get farther in there just to keep playing games with those guys, because I’m probably never gonna play a single game with those guys in the locker room ever again.”

A third-team All-Big Ten selection this past season, Branham averaged 13.7 points on 49.8 percent shooting and also put up 3.6 rebounds per game for the Buckeyes in 2021-22. In conference play, Branham averaged 16.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting, and in the final 10 games of the year, his scoring average ballooned to 20.2 points at a 56.6 percent clip from the field.

Through the first 10 games of the year, Branham averaged just 6.3 points while shooting 38.8 percent, but his coming out party came after Ohio State's 22-day COVID-19 break through the end of December. On Jan. 2, Branham scored 35 points on 13-for-19 shooting in an overtime win at Nebraska, and the freshman never looked back after that.

Branham had eight 20-point performances in 2021-22, including a 31-point night in a win over Illinois on Feb. 24 and a 23-point effort to lead the Buckeyes in their season-ending loss to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.

A product of Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary, Branham was a four-star recruit out of high school, rated the No. 38 overall prospect in the class of 2021 and the No. 1 player in the state of Ohio.

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