When Malaki Branham arrives at Ohio State to begin his college career this summer, he will be the 10th player in program history to bring a specific accolade with him.
As a senior at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Branham was named Ohio Mr. Basketball in early April after helping lead the Irish to their Division II state title in four years. He will join the Buckeyes having scored 1,501 career points, fourth-most at his alma mater, and assume a significant role on the 2021-22 Ohio State roster.
That much has been true for the nine that have proceeded Branham as Buckeyes. Together, they have averaged 1,310 points at Ohio State and combined to bring home two Big Ten player of the year awards, three first-team All-Big Ten nominations and four conference freshman of the year awards.
Here’s a chronological look at the first nine Ohio Mr. Basketball honorees to sign with Ohio State immediately out of college.
(Note: Medina’s Tony Stockman, who shared the 2000 award, initially signed with Clemson out of high school before ultimately transferring to the Buckeyes and is not included on this list.)
Jim Jackson, 1988 and 1989
The state’s first winner, Jackson captured the first two trophies at Toledo Macomber and went on to a stellar three-year career at Ohio State that saw him become a consensus two-time first-team All-American. Jackson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1990 and was a first-team all-league pick in each of the next two seasons before being taken fourth overall in the 1992 NBA draft following his junior season.
Jackson was named to the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021. His No. 22 jersey was retired Feb. 10, 2001, and hangs inside Value City Arena.
After starting all 93 career games, Jackson’s 1,785 total points are seventh-most in Ohio State history and his scoring average of 19.2 points is ninth-highest.
Greg Simpson, 1991 and 1992
The Lima Senior product committed to the Buckeyes during the summer prior to his senior year after having averaged 32.3 points per game as a junior, picking Ohio State over finalists Michigan and Purdue and a list of finalists that also included Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa.
Like Jackson, Simpson would be voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1993 after averaging 9.6 points, 2.6 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game while shooting 37.8% from three. He led the Buckeyes in three-point shooting during his two seasons with the program before being dismissed after being accused of striking his former girlfriend and the mother of his three children and finished his collegiate career at West Virginia.
He averaged 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 46.6% from the floor and 40.0% from three in 57 games including 36 starts at Ohio State.
Damon Stringer, 1995
The all-time leading scorer in Cleveland Heights history, Stringer picked Ohio State over Clemson and led his alma mater to the state title game as a senior.
Like Simpson, Stringer would leave Ohio State under inauspicious circumstances. Stringer was charged with attacking another man and damaging the man’s car in April 1998. He had entered his sophomore season as a team captain but was stripped of that role by coach Jim O’Brien after an altercation in August outside a North High Street nightclub in which he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The charges were later dropped.
Stringer started 52 of 54 games in his two seasons, averaging 13.2 points and 2.5 rebounds and leading the team in scoring, assists and steals both years. He was the team’s most valuable player in 1997.
Jamar Butler, 2004
It would be nine more years until the Buckeyes would land Mr. Basketball, although three of them saw LeBron James bring home the award before going straight to the NBA. Butler had initially committed to Cincinnati before switching to Ohio State.
As a senior, Butler averaged 31.6 points, 8.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals a game for Shawnee while shooting 44 percent from the field and 37 percent on three-pointers. At Ohio State, he was a first-team all-Big Ten pick in 2008 when he led the Buckeyes to an NIT championship while averaging a career-high 15.0 points per game. He was named the team’s most outstanding player that season as well.
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A four-year starter who played 139 career games, Butler averaged 9.4 points, twice led Ohio State in free-throw shooting percentage and is second in school history in made three-pointers with 242 and assists with 579.
Jon Diebler, 2007
The state’s all-time leading prep scorer, Diebler posted 3,208 points in four seasons at Upper Sandusky, including a 77-point outburst that is the seventh-best game in Ohio history. In his final prep game, he scored a Division II record 48 points in a championship game loss, then went on to become the Big Ten’s all-time leading three-point shooter during a four-year career at Ohio State.
His 374 career three-pointers remain the best in league history, and he shot 41.6% from deep for his career. As a senior, Diebler was 114 for 227 (50.2%) from three. He averaged 10.7 points in 144 games including 115 starts.
William Buford, 2008
A product of Toledo Libbey, Buford averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds as a senior and was also named a McDonald’s All-American after scoring 29 points in a one-point loss in the state title game. He was named Big Ten freshman of the year after averaging 11.3 points per game for the 2008-09 season.
In 145 games, Buford scored 1,990 career points, tied with Jerry Lucas for third-most in Ohio State history. He’s one of three Buckeyes to score at least 500 points in three seasons, and his 1,689 career field goals attempted are the most in program history, as are his 137 career starts.
Jared Sullinger, 2009 and 2010
Sullinger made it three in a row for the Buckeyes, although they had to wait an extra year because he was a back-to-back honoree at Northland. He led the Vikings to 95 wins and a state championship in four seasons and was a McDonald’s All-American, capturing that event’s MVP award at future college home Value City Arena. As a senior, he averaged 23.0 points and 11.4 rebounds and shot 76 percent from the field, closing his prep career with 1,910 points.
He was Big Ten freshman of the year in 2011 after averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and was named freshman of the week a record 12 times, then returned as a sophomore and averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds before becoming a first-round NBA draft pick.
Sullinger was the first Ohio State player to earn consensus All-America honors since Jackson, being named to the first team in both his seasons with the Buckeyes. He scored 1,282 points in 74 games, all but one of which were starts, averaging 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Marc Loving, 2013
In beating out Luke Kennard for the award, Loving averaged 21.3 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor as a senior at Toledo St. John’s and was a two-time Division I player of the year winner.
In 134 career games at Ohio State, Loving averaged 10.0 points per game and finished with 1,338 points. He’s fourth in school history with 176 career three-pointers. He was named Ohio State’s most valuable player in 2016.
Kaleb Wesson, 2017
As a senior at Westerville South, Wesson averaged 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds and shot 66.5% from the field after dropping more than 40 pounds. He also led the Wildcats to a state title as a junior.
At Ohio State he was named second-team all-Big Ten in 2020, honorable mention all-league in 2019 and to the all-freshman team in 2018 before opting to leave following his junior year. In 96 career games, Wesson averaged 12.9 points and 7.0 rebounds. As a senior, he averaged 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 42.5% (45 for 106) from three-point range.