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Malaki Branham drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft

The B1G Freshman of the Year is the first Ohio State first-rounder since D’Angelo Russell in 2015.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

With the 20th pick, the San Antonio Spurs select Malaki Branham, freshman guard from The ™ Ohio State University, in the 2022 NBA Draft.

After a freshman season where he garnered All-Big Ten honors as well as earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Branham not only became Ohio State’s first first-rounder in seven years, but also the first one-and-done player in seven years and the first one-and-done player of the Chris Holtmann era.

Branham averaged 6.3 points per game over the first 10 games of the season, capping that streak off with a zero-point dud against Wisconsin on Dec. 11 where he shot 0-2 from the floor. But after a well-documented COVID-19 pause in the program that lasted three weeks, Branham returned a completely different player.

On January 2nd, Branham blew up for a career-high 35 points in a road win at Nebraska while many of his teammates were still recovering from lingering effects of the illness. Branham averaged 17 points per game from that point on, providing an elite Robin to E.J. Liddell’s Batman.

Branham’s defense will need to improve at the next level, as will his body. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds he’s still slender, but will get bigger with the San Antonio training and conditioning staff.

But his assets far outweigh the knocks on his game. Branham shot north of 40% from three last season and showed the ability to attack the basket with either hand from either side. And that doesn’t even include his mid-range game, which may be the most refined part of his offensive toolbox. He’s not a main ballhandler, but Branham has shown the ability to read defenses and make the appropriate pass when he doesn’t have a clear lane to the basket.

And at 19 years old, he still could grow, both physically and mentally. He’ll become a smarter, more cerebral player with time, but he could also get bigger and taller once he gets to the league. To have all these physical tools at such a young age, it’s no wonder Branham shot up draft boards so quickly once the calendar flipped to 2022.

Last season’s 20th overall pick, Jalen Johnson, signed a four-year, $12.8 million-dollar contract with the Atlanta Hawks following the 2021 NBA Draft. Branham will likely sign a contract in that range.

Congratulations to Malaki on being drafted to the Spurs. We can’t wait to see you become successful at the next level!