The Cincinnati Princeton boys’ basketball team was leaving one of the gyms at Value City Arena when one player was called into the main office.

It was early June and Bowen Hardman was bought to meet with Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann and his staff. Just one season into his high school career, Hardman had caught the eye of the staff while at the Buckeyes’ annual team camp and was now officially on their radar.

Roughly three unofficial visits and four months later, it led to a scholarship offer for the guard in the class of 2022. That arrived last weekend, when Hardman and his mother, Dawn, were in Holtmann’s office while on an unofficial visit to campus.

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It wasn’t Hardman’s first, and it’s not his last, but it meant a lot for reasons that go beyond basketball.

“I think we’re still trying to process that it’s all happening as a 15-year-old sophomore, but Ohio State’s amazing,” Dawn Hardman told The Dispatch. “What I like most about the coaching staff is they’re getting to know Bowen as a person, not what he can do on the court but who he is as an individual off the court. And that’s important to me, because if I’m going to send my kid away to school I want to make sure he’s in good hands.”

It’s helped set the Buckeyes apart in the early stages of Hardman’s recruitment.

“They’re not a team to just straight-out offer you a scholarship for skill alone. We’ve talked to (assistant coach Jake) Diebler once a week ever since they started recruiting him. They call him, they ask him how school’s going, what he’s doing in his spare time. They sit down and have real conversations with him, which impresses me because we’ve had offers from three other schools and one of them, once they offered him they haven’t really talked to us very much. I like the fact that before just throwing out an offer they got to know us as a family and him as a person.”

As a freshman, Hardman averaged 5.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 24 games including two starts. He had a season-high 19 points in a 59-51 win against Dayton Belmont, a game that pitted him against classmate Shawn Phillips Jr.

Both players were on unofficial visits to Ohio State last weekend and earned scholarship offers. You can hear from Phillips by clicking here.

“Bowen as a player is a lights-out shooter, has a very quick release, catch-and-shoot guy, moves really well without the ball,” said Steve Green, a longtime Princeton assistant who is entering his first season as head coach. “Nowadays that’s a lost art. His dad was a coach for a long time and really instilled in him to work on those things: moving without the basketball, using screens, developing great form. That’s what you’re getting right now.”

It’s landed him a few early scholarship offers. Ohio and Xavier had offered before last weekend, and Cincinnati did so Tuesday night while he was on campus for an unofficial visit.

“It’s very surreal,” his mother said. “You always want to think that your kid’s good at something, but then when other people start noticing it’s like, ‘Wow, my kid’s really special.’ ”

Recruiting rankings are hard to come by for the 2022 class, but OHHoops.org lists him as the No. 3 Ohioan in his class. He is currently unranked by 247Sports.com.

For now, the plan is to start focusing in on his sophomore season. No further unofficial visits are planned, Green said, but quick trips to see workouts at nearby Xavier and Cincinnati are always possibilities.

“I’m excited to see what UC’s going to do with (first-year coach John) Brannen,” Dawn Hardman said. “They’re a great group of kids as well (at Cincinnati). Ohio State, it’s just a different feel up there around the coaches. We’ve really gotten to know them the most out of all the coaching staffs we’ve been with, even though we’ve been around quite a few. It feels like family. I’m sure we’ll see what happens with some of the other schools too, but at this point we really like the feel.

“We’ll see. He’s got two more years.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy