Branham was taken 20th overall by San Antonio and Liddell was selected 41st by New Orleans
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The goal for many of the top collegiate basketball players is to hear their named called on draft night. For Ohio State stars Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell, the dream became a reality on Thursday night. Branham was selected 20th overall by the San Antonio Spurs and Liddell was taken by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 41st overall pick.
Branham is Ohio State’s 25th first round pick and the first since D’Angelo Russell in 2015. Liddell’s selection gave OSU multiple picks in the same draft for the first time in 15 years.
Branham was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last season and big things were expected of him as a Buckeye. But the burst and leap his game took over the course of his freshman season was remarkable. His 35-point performance in an overtime win at Nebraska on Jan. 2 not only set an OSU freshman record for points in a Big Ten game, but it turned a lot of heads. He proceeded to average 16.3 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent and 46.8 percent from long range over the course of Big Ten play. That earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a spot on the Kyle Macy Award Freshman All-America Team.
For the year, Branham shot 49.8 percent from the floor and was second in the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 83.3 percent. He scored in double figures in each of the last 11 games and averaged over 19 points per game over that stretch. He had a season-high four steals and was 5-of-7 shooting for 14 points in his first NCAA Tournament game vs. Loyola Chicago. He followed that by scoring a game-high 23 points vs. Villanova in the second round.
Liddell went through the draft process last summer and elected to return to Ohio State for his junior season. With the expectation level high and the scouting focus squarely on him, Liddell enjoyed his best collegiate season and certainly elevated his draft stock. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists per game. Over the last 30 years, he is just the third player to average those numbers over a full season, joining Jason Thompson of Rider and Tim Duncan of Wake Forest.
The consensus third team All-American scored in double figures in every game and had 13 games of 20 or more points this season. Liddell became the 33rd Buckeye in program history with 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds. He finished with 1,298 career points which is 32nd on the program’s all-time scoring list. Liddell is also seventh in school history with 143 career blocks.
The Belleville, Ill., native came off the bench in all 31 games as a freshman in 2019-20, averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. Last season as a sophomore, he shifted his game and played the center position for the majority of the year, averaging 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor. He earned first team All-Big Ten honors and thrust himself into the national spotlight.
Multiple Buckeyes Selected in the Same Draft
This draft marked the 12th time that multiple Ohio State players have been selected in the same draft and the first in the last 15 years. Three of those years had three Buckeyes selected.
- 2007 (3 players)
- 1981 (3 players)
- 1962 (3 players)
Buckeyes Overall in the NBA Draft
- Ohio State has had 55 players drafted since the start of the draft in 1947
- 25 Buckeyes have been drafted in the first round
- A total of 36 Buckeyes have been selected in the first or second rounds
- D’Angelo Russell was the most recent Buckeye selected in the draft’s first round as he was taken with the No. 2 pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015.
- Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook were all taken in the first round during the 2007 NBA Draft with Oden going No. 1 (Portland), Conley No. 4 (Memphis) and Cook No. 21 (Philadelphia).
- Jared Sullinger went to the Boston Celtics with the 21st pick in 2012 first round.
COURTESY OSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS