Widely projected to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Ohio State freshman guard Malaki Branham announced on Wednesday afternoon that he is hiring an agent and is closing the door on a potential return to the Buckeyes next season.
A former four-star prospect from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Branham averaged 13.7 points, 3.6 rebound and 2.0 assists in 32 games (31 starts) for the Buckeyes this year.
That includes a pair of 30-point outings in wins at Nebraska and Illinois on Jan. 3 and Feb. 24, respectively, making him the only power conference freshman to top that mark twice this season, as well as the only freshman in Ohio State history to score 30-plus points in multiple road games.
At the end of the season, Branham was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a third-team all-conference performer by the coaches and media. He then declared for the draft on April 1 but left the door open for a potential return by not hiring an agent.
After getting feedback from NBA scouts over the last few weeks, Branham felt comfortable enough to take the next. He and junior forward E.J. Liddell will now look to become the first Buckeyes to be selected in the first round since D’Angelo Russell went No. 2 overall in 2015.