When EJ Liddell arrived at Ohio State in the summer of 2019, he had eyes on one day playing in the NBA. The four-star prospect was a two-time Mr. Illinois Basketball honoree and believed working with Chris Holtmann and his staff in Columbus would help him reach his potential.
It took three seasons of playing with the Buckeyes, but Liddell is about to have his dream fulfilled. The forward declared for the NBA Draft following his sophomore year, but after working out for professional personnel, felt there was more to achieve at the college level and more room to grow before taking the next step. In his final year of college, Liddell became one of the best players in the country and now expects to hear his name called in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft.
EJ Liddell’s projections:
David Cob, CBS Sports: Round 1, Pick 25, San Antonio Spurs
Kevin O’Conno, The Ringer: Round 1, Pick 17, Houston Rockets
Sam Vecenie, The Athletic: Round 2, Pick 32, Orlando Magic
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated: Round 1, Pick 20, San Antonio Spurs
Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report: Round 1, Pick 25, San Antonio Spurs
Krysten Peek, Yahoo Sports: Round 1, Pick 24, Milwaukee Bucks
Carl Berman, NetScouts Basketball: Round 1, Pick 25, San Antonio Spurs
Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation: Round 1, Pick 24, Milwaukee Bucks
Bryan Kalbrosky, USA Today: Round 1, Pick 27, Miami Heat
Basketball News: Round 1, Pick 22, Memphis Grizzlies
As a freshman, Liddell played 16.6 minutes per game, coming off the bench in all 31 of the Buckeyes’ games. He averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in his first year with the Scarlet and Gray. Liddell really began to come on late in the season, scoring 17 points in a loss at Iowa in late February and equaled that point production while hauling in 11 rebounds, his first collegiate double-double, two weeks later in a win against Illinois. He finished the regular season with a 12-point, four-rebound performance in a loss to Michigan State.
Liddell’s production may have extended into the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, but both postseason events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Buckeyes finished Liddell’s first season in Columbus with a 21-10 record.
Returning for his sophomore year, Liddell became a starter for the Scarlet and Gray, playing in 29 and starting 28 of Ohio State’s 31 contests during a shortened season. Liddell’s production increased, averaging 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while playing 29.4 minutes per outing. His shooting percentage increased to 47.4 percent and Liddell developed an outside game, knocking down 33.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Liddell set a career high with 26 points in a mid-January win against the Fighting Illini.
Last season, Liddell again took his game to another level. He started all 32 games for Ohio State and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten performer, as well as being named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team. He played 33.2 minutes per game as a junior, averaging 19.4 points on 49 percent shooting, 37.4 percent from three-point range, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists per contest.
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There is less consensus about where Liddell will go in the NBA Draft than there is with Branham among those that do mock drafts. What is clear is that despite his play at Ohio State the last three years, Liddell is not thought of as highly as his former teammate and will have to continue his hard work to become the same type of star in the NBA that he was in college.