Mar 20, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard Malaki Branham (22) dribbles the ball on Villanova Wildcats guard Justin Moore (5) in the second half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Malaki Branham will be a one-and-done at Ohio State — probably.

Branham announced that he’s planning on entering the NBA Draft while also maintaining his college eligibility. If Branham is drafted in the first round, he’ll head to the NBA.

“I will be testing the draft waters while keeping my college eligibility intact,” Branham said, per Jonathan Givony, ESPN. “I want to find the best situation and the right fit for me. I am staying in the draft if I’m in the first round because I believe if someone gives me four years to prove myself, I have no doubt that they will love what they’re getting.”

Based on the current projections, Branham will be a first-round pick. Bryan Kalbrosky of USA Today recently projected Branham to go No. 10 to the Washington Wizards. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wasn’t quite as bullish, but still had Branham going No. 16 to the Houston Rockets.

Branham had a big freshman year for the Buckeyes. While logging just under 30 minutes a game, he averaged 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game. His performances got better as the season wore on, as well. In every one of his final six games, Branham exceeded the 13.7 points per game average.

In February, Illinois coach Brad Underwood praised Branham’s game (per Griffin Strom, Eleven Warriors).

Branham testing the NBA waters while maintaining his college eligibility isn’t unique. What is unique is coming right out and saying what it will take to get him to go the NBA. But as long as Branham does not hire an agent, his NCAA eligibility will remain intact.

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