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OSU standout likely 1st round pick in tonight’s NBA draft

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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have the 14th overall selection in Thursday night’s 2022 NBA Draft.

There are a myriad of directions the organization could explore as management looks to boost the talent around a core of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, but one potential route involves an area connection.

Ohio State’s Malaki Branham is a Columbus native who played his highschool ball at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. The Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Yr averaged 13.7 points, 2.0 assists and three.6 rebounds this season and has been linked to the Cavaliers.

“Lebron has his name plastered on the gym,” Branham said of James and his mark left on the Fighting Irish program. “I look as much as him. He’s top-of-the-line players to ever touch a basketball. Just the best way he carries himself on and off the court.”

Branham could find himself following in similar footsteps if the Cavaliers make him the 14th pick. No matter where he lands Thursday night, he’s savoring the moment.

“It really doesn’t matter where I’m going,” Branham said. “I feel like I’m just blessed, I’m blessed to be on this position. And I’m excited for Thursday.”

The Buckeyes haven’t had a first-round selection since D’Angelo Russell was chosen second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015. Branham had workouts with the nine teams as a part of the pre-draft process including the Knicks, Wizards, Rockets and Hornets within the last week.

“It’s identical to, you’re within the NBA now. It’s sort of crazy. I feel like that’s just the wow moment,” Branham said. “Me just visiting these organizations, meeting recent people. Meeting the front office. And it’s identical to wow. I’m really here.”

Branham is primed to develop into the third player from the St. Vincent St. Mary program to achieve the NBA, joining James and Jakarr Sampson. His highschool hoops coach, Dru Joyce, will probably be in Brooklyn for the festivities Thursday night.

“Since I have been watching the draft, that’s where I desired to be, within the Green Room,” Branham said. “So just getting that invite man, it was very exciting simply to see that. So, I’m very glad.”

You possibly can watch the NBA Draft on News 5 Cleveland at 8 p.m.

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