Posted On: 08/21/18 3:38 PM
Last week, Malaki Branham (2021) premiered at no. 4 in the 2021 Prospect Rankings. We believe the 6’4” wing/forward from St. Vincent-St. Mary has a lot of potential. Akron and Ohio State seem to agree with the assertion.
“I got an offer from Akron and I got interest from Ohio State,” Branham explained.
Akron offered him at the conclusion of their camp in June, the same month he caught Ohio State’s attention. The Buckeyes, Branham says, then watched him with NEO Tru Game at the E15 Peach Jam in July.
Tru Game finished in the Elite 8 of the E15 Peach Jam, a team accomplishment that provided developmental opportunity for each individual.
“The competition was way higher than what we’d been playing,” Branham said, in reference to previous years. “It was just a different level.”
In our experiences watching the state’s no. 1 15U team, Branham was their most versatile prospect. At 6’4”, his length and bounce allow him to defend up and rebound against forwards. Meanwhile, Branham can get to the basket and push pace off the dribble.
“Driving the ball and getting to the rim and drawing fouls,” Branham listed as his offensive strengths. He continued, “Penetrating and making my teammates open to pass it. Then shooting the dribble pull-up that I’ve been working on.”
What about defense?
“Shot-blocking. I’ve got length and athleticism, so getting in the passing lanes and making it harder for the defense,” he responded.
Branham said he’s most comfortable defending the 3 and 4 right now. Small forward seems like his long-term position to us and he’s hoping that he’ll get reps on the wing with STVM this season as they look to return to the State Final Four for the eighth time in 11 years.
“I think I’m going to play a lot this year. And I think I’m probably going to be on the wing pretty much, but I’m probably going to be in the 4 area a little too. But the position should change a little bit,” Branham said.
One of the most productive areas of the game is as a rebounder right now, making it hard not to assign him to the paint. It also doesn’t help that STVM has a lot of perimeter talent. Between Lunden McDay, Seth Wilson, Chris Painter, VannAubrey Thomas, Isaiah Ingol, Jalen Ross, and Darius Cone, the Fighting Irish have seven other returning contributors who could demand minutes at the 1, 2, or 3.There are not many Ohio schools that Branham, a 3.0 student, wouldn’t be a featured scorer by year two, but STVM might be one of those rare places. However, Branham is capitalizing on the process by seeing it as a learning opportunity.
“Just got to work through it because when I get to college it’s going to be the same thing — just got to work through it to get my spot,” Branham said.
Obviously, the other part of the team being supremely talented is that they’ll be really good next season. In fact, so good that the OHSAA moved STVM up to Division I for competitive balance after winning last season’s Division II crown. Although the road to Columbus will be tougher than ever for the guard-heavy roster, we expect Branham to both contribute and be a part of real playoff success as a sophomore.