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Future Buckeyes Malaki Branham, Kalen Etzler each hit scoring milestones

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary guard Malaki Branham makes a layup in a Jan. 13 game against Walsh Jesuit.

Kalen Etzler knew he was on the doorstep of a milestone when he brought the basketball across the half-court line. Dribbling toward the three-point line, the senior at Convoy Crestview High School pulled up from a few feet behind the arc and let it fly.

Then he turned his back and headed the other way. When the ball went through the net, the 2021 Ohio State signee had reached 1,000 career points in his high school career, so play was stopped and the moment was commemorated.

“It looked good, so I just turned around and they stopped the game for me,” Etzler told The Dispatch. “I was kind of in shock because I didn’t know what to do. I was still in the middle of the game and they stopped it, so that was a little weird, but it was cool.”

Etzler’s shot took place in a home win against Defiance Tinora on Jan. 2. Five days earlier, his future OSU teammate Malaki Branham had his own four-figures moment when his layup against Richmond Heights gave the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary senior his 1,000th career point in a 70-57 win. Branham finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Forward Kalen Etzler, shown here in a 2019 summer tournament, became the sixth member of the Etzler family to reach 1,000 career points at Convoy Crestview High School.

In Branham's case, as well, play was stopped, the significance of the basket was announced and he attempted take in the significance of the accomplishment while also acknowledging the desire to play on. Unlike Etzler, though, Branham said he didn’t know his milestone was looming.

“I was playing to win and the announcer said I hit a thousand when I hit that bucket,” he said. “It was a good moment, but at the same time it was a good game so I was like, ‘Let’s play on. We can celebrate after we win this game.’ ”

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In doing so, Branham became the 16th player in Irish program history to hit the 1,000-point mark, joining a list that includes the player whose name graces the arena in which he plays: LeBron James.

“It’s just been countless hours in the gym, believing in myself, my teammates believing in me, my coaches believing in me,” Branham said. “The confidence’s gotta be there to take them shots.”

Etzler got there without the benefit of a freshman season as he dealt with a back injury. He is the sixth member of his family to reach 1,000 career prep points at Crestview, joining his uncle, Doug Etzler, a current coach and former player at Ohio State; his brother, Javin, a redshirt freshman at Miami University; his parents, Andy Etzler and Krista Dailey; and a cousin, Scott.

Against Tinora, Kalen Etzler finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I was just excited to get my thousandth point,” he said. “Not many people get to do that, especially at a school (where) they grew up their whole life. It’s just really cool to be one of the people in my family to get it done.”

Both players will be freshmen at Ohio State next season. Branham, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, is a four-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, the top prospect from Ohio and the nation’s No. 29 prospect.

Etzler, a 6-8 power forward, is a three-star recruit ranked No. 3 in Ohio and No. 143 nationally.

Branham said he remembered a game as a sophomore, when the game was stopped and applauded senior teammate Lunden McDay, now a sophomore at Ohio University, when he reached 1,000 career points.

“When Lunden hit it, I was rooting for him,” he said. “Now I’m in his shoes, his position. It felt good to hit this milestone but now I’m ready to get a state championship.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy