Last time you guys heard from me, we took a look at Ohio State’s March Offseason News, which consisted of draft news, scheduling, and more. If you have not checked it out, be sure to! This article will be an April review, same concept, but new month. However, with so much happening this month, I have split this into two separate articles, a part one and part two. Let’s get started!
Buckeyes Basketball Entering 2022 Maui Invitational, Their Fourth Ever in a Loaded Field
MAUI! We love the Maui Invitational! In the 39th annual Maui Jim Maui Invitational, Ohio State will make a return to the event in 2022. It will feature Arkansas, Creighton, Texas Tech, Arizona, San Diego State, Louisville, and Cincinnati. The Maui Invitational will happen from November 21st through November 23rd, and under normal formatting each team plays three games in as many days. It will be held in the historic Lahaina Civic Center on the island of Maui.
According to the announcement, teams that have taken part in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational have won 69 of the last 81 national titles and seven programs went on to win the national championship after competing in the event earlier that same season. Ohio State previously took part in the event in 1988, 1993 and 2003 and the team owns a 6-3 record all-time at the event.
This field certainly may not be quite as appealing as previous years, when Duke or Gonzaga competed in the Maui Invitational, however there are still some darkhorse national title contenders in this field, including Ohio State. San Diego State is no joke, as they’ve been one of the best defensive teams on the country for a few seasons now, and Texas Tech is the same way. Even with the departure of Head Coach Chris Beard to Texas, they could still be a major player on the college basketball landscape.
Eric Musselman got Arkansas back into contention, as one of the best teams in the SEC and in the country. Never forget Creighton, either. Always a darkhorse, this Big East underdog has the ability to play with some of the best in the country on any given night. It’s hard to say where all these programs will be in a few years, but it will still be an excellent tournament, and a perfect challenge for Ohio State, who appears to be a favorite to win the whole thing.
Ohio State Signee and Incoming Freshman Malaki Branham Named 2021 Ohio ‘Mr. Basketball’
Malaki Branham was named 2021’s Mr. Basketball of Ohio for this past season, after leading his team to an OHSAA State Title Championship in Division II. Branham scored 37 points in the championship game (14th most in an OHSAA state tournament game, and most since Jon Diebler scored 48 in 2007), shooting 15-21 (0-2 on threes, 7-8 on free throws), as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary‘s used a dominant 2nd half to pull away from Columbus DeSales for the 72-50 win.
Branham came just shy of his career-high 44 points that he scored his junior year, when he helped Akron SVSM reach the Regional tournament before COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the season. Branham was a 1st-Team All-Ohio selection for Division II as a junior that season, too. As a sophomore, he helped lead Akron SVSM to the Division I State Final Four.
Branham is ranked 29th nationally, 6th among shooting guards, and he’s the best prospect in Ohio. He averaged 22 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, and 2 SPG this season, improving from last season’s averages of 20 PPG, 7 RPG, and 3 APG. Branham has said wants to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and the “sky is the limit” if he can do that next season for the Buckeyes, who are looking for their first instant-impact Freshman in a long time. Branham will be the 11th player to win the award and then suit up for Ohio State, joining Jimmy Jackson, Greg Simpson, Damon Stringer, Tony Stockman, Jamar Butler, Jon Diebler, William Buford, Jared Sullinger, Marc Loving and Kaleb Wesson. Branham also is the 1st Akron SVSM player to win the award since 2003. He helped the Irish set a record with four such winners after LeBron James was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball three times (2001-2003).
Malaki Branham is the real deal, and just like EJ Liddell, he’s a Mr. Basketball of his state. The difference between him and Liddell is what state they won the award in. Branham should get big minutes and a significant role next season for the Buckeyes, who could rely on his scoring prowess and versatility at times if called upon to do so.
Duane Washington Jr. Becomes 2nd Buckeye to Declare for NBA Draft, Elects to Retain College Eligibility
EJ Liddell won’t be the only Buckeye entering this year’s NBA Draft. Duane Washington Jr. will do the same, and he too, will keep his college eligibility so he can return to Columbus next season if he chooses to do so. Washington also had a breakout campaign this season, in his junior season for the Buckeyes, announcing his decision via Twitter.
Washington was a 3-star prospect out of Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, California. Washington was the 167th ranked prospect in the 2018 recruiting class for the Buckeyes, the 17th ranked combo guard nationally, and 14th ranked player in California.
As a freshman, Washington played in 35 games, starting in 2 games. Washington averaged 7 PPG, 3 RPG, and 1 APG on shooting splits of 37% from the field, 31% from three, and 65% from the free-throw line playing 17 MPG. As a sophomore, Washington started in 15 of 28 games, playing 25 MPG. He averaged 12 PPG, 3 RPG, and just under 1.5 APG on shooting splits of 40/39/83.
In his junior season, Washington, like Liddell, had a breakout season. Starting in all 31 games, Washington played 32 MPG, averaging 16 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3 APG, as well as 2 TPG on shooting splits of 41/37/84. Washington was a 3rd–Team Big-Ten selection by media and coaches this season. Washington took his game to another level in the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 23 PPG on extremely efficient shooting of 53% from the field and 44% from the three-point line.
Like I said for Liddell, Washington hearing feedback from scouts and personnel on his game and what he can do to improve his draft stock is extremely smart, and it will benefit him (and Liddell) next season for the Buckeyes. Washington will also likely receive some consideration nationally for preseason watch lists, like EJ Liddell. It will certainly be interesting to see how the draft process works out for the both of them, but hopefully we will see them back in Buckeye uniforms for a national championship run next season!
5-Star Prospect Efton Reid Still Undecided, Last 5 Includes Buckeyes
Ohio State might have their BIG MAN recruit of the future! 2021 5-star center Efton Reid‘s mother announced via Twitter that he will be deciding on a school April 15. Those schools are Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Florida State, and N.C. State. There’s increasing certainty the decision will come down to Ohio State, Pittsburgh, or Virginia.
Reid is a 7’1, 235 LB native of Richmond, Virginia. He’s currently spending this year at IMG Academy on the post-graduate team in Bradenton, Florida. He is ranked as the nation’s 23rd overall prospect overall, 3rd overall center nationally and 3rd overall prospect in Florida.
Ohio State been looking for a big man to fill out their 2021 recruiting class, and this would be one heck of a way to do so. Ohio State also been monitoring the transfer portal for big man, and they have come up short so far. THIS IS THE BUCKEYES’ CHANCE. This is the piece they are missing to really to be a dangerous team in March, when they have to guard bigs like Hunter Dickinson and Kofi Cockburn. Efton Reid can provide that for the Buckeyes, and I hope he sees that. He is the missing piece Ohio State HAS TO HAVE.
In 2019-20, Reid attended Richmond’s Steward School as a Junior. He was a 1st-Team VISAA Division II pick as a junior, averaging 19 PPG, 12 RPG, 2 BPG, and 2 APG. He was also extremely efficient, shooting 78% on his 2-point field goals.
Reid’s only visit to Ohio State was for a football weekend in the fall of 2019. However, he has been unable to make any unofficial or official visits since the NCAA imposed its moratorium on visits in March of 2020 due to COVID-19.
At IMG Academy, Efton Reid played on the same post-graduate team with Canadian Center Charles Bediako, who was also offered by Ohio State. They posted a perfect regular season record this year of 25-0.
Efton Reid is the type of player Ohio State hasn’t had since Greg Oden in 2007, and he would surely be that impactful with his size and stature. PLEASE EFTON, COME TO COLUMBUS. BUCKEYE NATION IS CALLING, BEGGING, AND PLEADING!
Reid is still undecided after April 15, so we will see when he decides.
There you have it! The first half of April Buckeyes news, review, and much more! Stay tuned for part two, which will be arriving shortly, as more Buckeyes’ news floods in this month.