Ohio State four-star guard signee Malaki Branham was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball by a statewide media panel on Wednesday morning.
The 6-foot-4 and 175-pound Branham, who was considered the sixth-best shooting guard and No. 29 prospect overall in the class of 2021, averaged 21.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game to lead Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship this season.
Branham scored 37 points in the title game, a 72-50 win over Columbus St. Francis DeSales on March 21. It was the most points by any player in the state final since former Buckeye Jon Diebler scored 48 points in Upper Sandusky’s two-point loss to Dayton Dunbar in 2007.
Branham, who was also recently named the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association’s Mr. Basketball and the Division II player of the year, becomes the first Ohio State signee to be named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball since Westerville South’s Kaleb Wesson in 2017.
Other former Buckeyes to win the award include Jimmy Jackson in 1988-89, Greg Simpson in 1991-92, Damon Stringer in 1995, Tony Stockman in 2000, Jamar Butler in 2004, Diebler in 2007, William Buford in 2008, Jared Sullinger in 2009 and Marc Loving in 2013.
Branham also becomes the first player from St. Vincent-St. Mary to be named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball since LeBron James, who won the award in 2001-03. Together, they give the Fighting Irish a state-record four Mr. Basketball trophies.
“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.”
Branham is one of two players who signed with the Buckeyes in November, joining Convoy Crestview three-star power forward Kalen Etzler, and he’s eager to enroll in classes over the summer.
“It will be a lot of work to get ready, staying in consistent contact with coach (Chris) Holtmann and the rest of the coaching staff, watching a lot of film,” Branham said. “Working on what I need to do better to get ready for the next level, building on my skill set and improving on my weaknesses. It will be more about me learning and growing as a young man and [becoming] an even better player as I prepare to take the next step in my life.”
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