COLUMBUS, Ohio — Greg Oden, Michael Conley and Daequan Cook showed up at Ohio State as highly-rated recruits in 2006, capable of having an immediate impact on a program.
Then the three spent the 2006-07 season living up to the hype. Oden was among the nation’s best centers averaging 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Conley averaged 11.3 points, 6.1 assists and 2.2 steals. Cook averaged 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds as the sixth man.
Together the freshmen trio led the Buckeyes to a 35-4 record, losing just one game in Big Ten play as they reached the National Championship before being knocked off by Florida.
Oden came to college as a surefire NBA Draft pick and used his only season to solidify himself as the top pick. Conley was viewed more as a two-year player at best but quickly shined and turned himself into the fourth pick. He’s gone on to have a quality career with the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz while injuries derailed Oden’s career. Cook six seasons in the NBA as the 21st pick, spending time with the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls.
That was the last time Ohio State had multiple first-round picks in the same year.
Eight other former Buckeyes have been drafted since that freshman class did so with five being first-round picks. D’Angelo Russell and Evan Turner have had the best careers of that group as the second pick in their respective draft classes, while others had shorters careers. But the OSU-to-NBA pipeline hasn’t necessarily been strong.
E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham have a chance to change that.
Liddell put off the NBA, returning for a third season in Columbus, where he blossomed into an All-American. He averaged a team-high 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Branham arrived as a highly-rated recruit expected to eventually develop into a high-level second option and did just that, averaging 13.7 points while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from three-point range. Just like with Conley and Russell, he’s gone from a guy most thought might need two years to a one-and-done that might be a top 10 pick.
Oden, Conley and Cook provided Thad Matta with his first-ever first-round NBA Draft picks and what followed was a successful run of recruiting classes on on-court success. Liddell and Branham can serve as the same for Chris Holtmann, who is still looking to take that next step as the program’s head coach.
A decade had passed between first-round picks at Ohio State before that 2007 draft. Ending that drought in a loud fashion allowed the program to flourish once again. Here we are again with it being almost 10 years since Russell went second in 2015. Maybe history will repeat itself.
More Buckeyes coverage
Get the latest Ohio State Buckeyes merchandise: Here’s where you can order Ohio State football gear online, including jerseys, T-shirts, hoodies, hats and much more.