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 enhance the talent around a core of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, but one potential route involves a local connection.
Ohio State’s Malaki Branham is a Columbus native who played his high school ball at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. The Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year averaged 13.7 points, 2.0 assists and 3.6 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 up to him. He’s one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. Just the 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. Regardless of where he lands Thursday night, he’s savoring the moment.
“It really doesn’t matter where I go,” Branham said. “I feel like I’m just blessed, I’m blessed to be in this position. And I'm excited for Thursday.”
The Buckeyes haven’t had a first-round selection since D’Angelo Russell was selected second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015. Branham had workouts with the nine teams as part of the pre-draft process including the Knicks, Wizards, Rockets and Hornets in the last week.
“It’s just like, you’re in the NBA now. It’s kind of crazy. I feel like that’s just the wow moment,” Branham said. “Me just visiting these organizations, meeting new people. Meeting the front office. And it’s just like wow. I’m really here.”
Branham is primed to become the third player from the St. Vincent St. Mary program to reach the NBA, joining James and Jakarr Sampson. His high school hoops coach, Dru Joyce, will be in Brooklyn for the festivities Thursday night.
“Since I've been watching the draft, that’s where I wanted to be, in the Green Room,” Branham said. “So just getting that invite man, it was very exciting just to see that. So, I’m very happy.”
You can watch the NBA Draft on News 5 Cleveland at 8 p.m.
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