Malika Andrews’ ESPN Presence Grows With NBA Draft Coverage (EXCLUSIVE)

Malika Andrews is capping off a quick journey that has taken her from the sidelines of NBA games to a central seat at many of its big events.

The sportscaster is taking over the host duties of ESPN’s NBA Draft, succeeding Rece Davis, who led the broadcast for more than a decade. In doing so, Andrews cements her status as one of ESPN’s mainstay journalists, having been awarded hosting duties on “NBA Today” in 2021.

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The June 23 Draft broadcast, emanating from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, will top off Andrews’ busy schedule in weeks ahead. She will also host the NBA Draft Lottery telecast this evening at 8 p.m. on ESPN, prior to Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. She also hosts “NBA Today” from the NBA Draft Combine at 3 p.m. on ESPN during the week of May 16. NBA Today will air on site at the NBA Draft on June 23 as well.

“We believe our comprehensive coverage strategy for the 2022 NBA Draft will serve basketball fans to the fullest. We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” says David Roberts, ESPN’s head of NBA and studio production, in a statement provided by email. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

Andrews says she’s looking forward to exercising different muscles when she is joined by analysts Jay Bilas and Kendrick Perkins, NBA Draft analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz and senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on the Draft main set. One of the young players chosen as picks may become a superstar. “The NBA is very star-fandom driven, and that’s why people connect,” Andrews says during an interview. Covering the Draft means keeping an eye on player and families as they experience something “that is going to change your entire world view and fortune and outlook.”

ESPN has televised the NBA Draft for 20 consecutive years, but Andrews’ presence will put a new face at the center of it. “I have dauntingly enormous shoes to fill in replacing Rece,” she says. “He remains someone who I watch to learn how to be a better host on ‘NBA Today,’ and trying to do what he has done so seamlessly and flawlessly over the years is going to be a challenge.”

The trick of Draft coverage, says Andrews, is that “it all happens on the fly,” and her team must be ready to follow the news of the picks. ESPN may have “lasered” the hopefuls down to top candidates, she says, but no one can really be sure about the direction of the night.

Andrews wasn’t as well known a presence on ESPN before taking the reins of “NBA Today,” itself a re-crafted piece of the sports giant’s basketball programming. In 2021, ESPN canceled its previous NBA news show, “The Jump,” after anchor Rachel Nichols became embroiled in an in-house controversy.

Her new assignment was, at first, “a little scary,” says Andrews. “I make my mistakes in a very public place, and hopefully they aren’t that big,” she says, adding: “I have a ‘get-to’ job not a ‘have-to’ job. It definitely has a learning curve,” and she’s enjoyed watching shows from six months ago to see how much has changed “with my interactions with my teammates changing, with my delivery on the show changing with my comfort level as a host.”

ESPN’s parent, Disney, is working to make the NBA Draft a bigger property. ABC will broadcast the first round the second consecutive year. Kevin Negandhi returns as the host and will be joined by analysts Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will serve as the event reporter and conduct interviews with draftees upon their selection.

There will also be a “red carpet” pregame show, seen on ESPN between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on June 23. Cassidy Hubbarth will host, joined Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson to preview the event and interview the potential draftees, team personnel and celebrities on the red carpet.

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