Any number of words could describe the situation Bowen Hardman now finds himself in.
Midway through his high school career at Cincinnati Princeton, Hardman’s immediate basketball career has been put on hold like much of life around him because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also has dealt with personal tragedy and a revolving door of high school coaches.
Hardman, though, settled on one word to sum up his situation:
"Surreal," he said Monday.
It’s the best way to summarize the journey that led to Hardman issuing his verbal commitment to Ohio State last Wednesday. A three-star shooting guard in the class of 2022, according to the recruiting website 247Sports, Hardman will bring a growing offensive game and perimeter shooting ability as well as a 6-foot-4 frame to the Buckeyes when he arrives on campus.
He also will bring a battle-tested background that led to an emotional commitment. A little more than a year has passed since Hardman’s father, David, passed away after a fight with multiple myeloma, and it led to some tears when he called Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann with his decision last week.
"We have that trust where I can tell him anything," Hardman said. "It was an emotional phone call, but it was happy tears. I had some of the coaches crying a little bit. Thinking about my dad, he would’ve been 110% on board with me in knowing I’m in great hands with Holtmann and all of them."
Ohio State had been in early on Hardman. He caught the attention of the coaching staff last summer during team camp, leading to their scholarship offer while on an unofficial visit during a weekend in September.
To that point, Hardman had played only a freshman season in which he averaged 5.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 24 games, including two starts. That was the third time Hardman said he had been on campus, a tally that has since doubled.
It all helped him build a comfort level that social distancing couldn’t hold back. He speaks with the coaching staff daily, he said, noting that he will talk with assistant coach Jake Diebler for 30 to 40 minutes each day.
"I always knew it was going to come down to two schools: Ohio State and (Cincinnati)," he said. "The staff was amazing for both schools, but I felt like emotionally I had a better connection with Ohio State."
As a sophomore, Hardman averaged 12.1 points per game while shooting 45.9% from the field, 38.5% from three-point range and 95.7% from the free-throw line. OHHoops.org ranks him as the No. 4 Ohioan in his class, and he is Ohio State’s first commitment for the class of 2022.
With AAU basketball currently on hold, it’s unclear when Hardman will have a chance to improve his recruiting rankings. In a normal year, it’s conceivable that he could have added to his list of high-level offers, which included Cincinnati and Xavier, with a full spring and summer on the AAU circuit.
The fact that the Buckeyes got in early paid dividends.
"With them offering me so early, that was a big trust thing," Hardman said. "I’m a 15-year-old kid, there’s a lot going on in my life (at the time), a lot of tragedy, but hearing that just boosted my confidence and my self-esteem a lot.
"That plays a big part in why I committed because that trust factored in. I just thank God for the opportunities that I’ve gotten and to be an Ohio State Buckeye."