Ohio State's Malaki Branham tries to get the ball past Villanova's...

Ohio State's Malaki Branham tries to get the ball past Villanova's Caleb Daniels during the first half of a second-round NCAA Tournament game on March 20 in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP/Keith Srakocic

With the final workouts completed, Malaki Branham finally can relax as he readies for Thursday’s NBA Draft and his whirlwind rise from an unheralded Ohio State freshman to a likely lottery pick.

But the 19-year-old shooting guard hasn’t been overly stressed lately. At the NBA Draft Combine last month, he was asked about the interview process, running from one team’s hotel suite to the next.

“It’s been good,” he said. “I keep it short and sweet.”

He was asked why he kept the answers short in what essentially is a job interview.

“[There’s] not a lot of things that really happened in my life,” Branham said. “I came from a nice school, moved up, one year of college and I’m here.”

That may be understating what he’s done to get to this point and almost certainly will change Thursday when he finds himself walking across the stage for a hug or handshake with commissioner Adam Silver.

Branham interviewed with the Knicks at the Combine and then worked out for them earlier this month in a session that paired him with another likely lottery pick, Dyson Daniels, and likely first-rounders TyTy Washington and Josh Minott.

While this draft, maybe more than most, seems filled with uncertainty, Branham could be available when the Knicks are scheduled to pick at No. 11. Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren are the likely first three picks. Jaden Ivey and Keegan Murray are expected to round out the top five, and then it’s a mystery.

The Knicks didn’t work out Bennedict Mathurin, expecting him to be gone before they pick, and Daniels should be gone, too. Then it’s a scramble, and Branham could find himself landing at Madison Square Garden.

“I really don’t follow it,” he said of the mock drafts and projections. “Throughout the season, even my teammates are like, ‘You’re in a mock. You’re in a mock draft.’ I don’t want to look at it and get thick-headed. It’s weird and a blessing at the same time.”

Branham, who measured 6-4 at the Combine, has not taken anything for granted. He even met with the Nets, who don’t have a pick at all in the draft.

“They kind of just wanted to get to know me,” he said. “Get to know what kind of person I was, you know, my family. And you know, just asking questions about how I thought about the games and you know, just stuff like that. It wasn’t too crazy.”

Branham’s stock rose throughout his freshman season, with much of his improvement coming when the Buckeyes shut down the program for a COVID-19 pause and he worked out on his own.

In the first 10 games of the season, he averaged 6.3 points per game and shot 38.8%. But after a three-week break, he returned with a 35-point breakout performance against Nebraska. He averaged 17 points and shot 52.8% in his final 22 games, finished with a 23-point effort against Villanova in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and enters the draft regarded as a surefire scorer at the next level.

He has gone from a player who didn’t get an invite to the G League a year ago to one who has a green room invite for Thursday’s draft.

“I felt like I expected this for myself,” he said. “I know a lot of people didn’t. But I expected it and this is definitely a dream come true. You always want to be in a green room, shake the commissioner’s hand, you know, hear your name called with your family. So this has always been a dream of mine and I’m glad it’s almost here.”