At the end of his sophomore season at Green High School in Uniontown, Ohio, Nikola Bundalo was still a largely unheralded high school prospect. By the end of April, that all changed.
The skilled 6-foot-9 power forward’s stock exploded after impressing college coaches and media members while playing with Wildcat Select at multiple events on the AAU circuit this spring. Bundalo said he only had two scholarship offers beforehand, and both from mid-major programs. Afterward, attention came flooding in from high-major programs in a hurry, and Ohio State was among the first to take notice.
Bundalo was back home from the event when he received what he assumed to be an innocuous call from Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler. But when Chris Holtmann hopped on, Bundalo’s antennas went up. After a few minutes of small talk, the Buckeye head coach surprised him.
“He was like, 'Hey, I don't want to make it too abrupt, but we'd like to offer you a full Division I scholarship to Ohio State University.' I got up and I was like oh my God,” Bundalo said at Ohio State’s high school team camp Friday. “It just hit me. It was crazy. I mean, every kid from Ohio dreams to be here, whether it's for football or basketball, just having the opportunity to play in this environment at this high of a stage is just a blessing.”
2025 6-9 F Nikola Bundalo has been racking up offers (Iowa, Ohio St, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Xavier) after his strong showing with @WildcatSelect— CBB Europe (@CBB_Europe) May 3, 2023
Athletic & lengthy 4 man. Has range and ability to attack off the bounce. Very good finisher with either hand.@NikolaBundalo6 #3SSB pic.twitter.com/O5golBGO3h
A month after securing his offer from the Buckeyes, Bundalo took his first trip to Ohio State's campus for the program’s high school team camp this past week. Bundalo returned for an unofficial visit Tuesday but was happy to share the experience of playing at the Schottenstein Center with his teammates amid his individual recruitment.
“It's exciting because you get to take the guys that are from your city and all that stuff with you to see this kind of stuff,” Bundalo said. “But obviously, me having an offer from here, and I'm coming back here actually next week, I got an unofficial visit. So this is my first time ever being on campus. So it's a good experience to kind of see what it's like and see what the competition is going to be like this year in Ohio basketball.”
Eleven Warriors was present at the Schott to watch two of Bundalo’s performances Friday, beginning with a matchup against Lima Senior High School on the main floor of the Buckeye facility. While Bundalo flashed plenty of potential, the versatile big man had an up-and-down outing to start out.
2025 Uniontown PF Nikola Bundalo, who holds an OSU offer, doing some work off the bounce here at the Buckeyes team camp. pic.twitter.com/93Bgv2Q5hG— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) June 9, 2023
Bundalo with the dime here: pic.twitter.com/QfYnXJn3Rs— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) June 9, 2023
However, he more than made up for that in Green’s second game.
Bundalo had his way with Northland on Friday afternoon, routinely finishing at the rim with authority and showing he has the ball-handling skills necessary to create a shot off the bounce. The left-handed forward also showed off his shooting range as part of a perimeter tool kit that is sure to help his profile continue to rise.
By my count, this is the fourth dunk for Bundalo in the first half against Northland: pic.twitter.com/T5V7Hlyk5J— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) June 9, 2023
Bundalo knows his versatility sets him apart from other prospects, but is focused on learning to pick his spots and play smarter as he rounds out his skill set moving forward.
“The thing I'm trying to improve most right now is just being a little bit more patient, learning how to pick my times when I'm gonna go do certain things,” Bundalo said. “Obviously, I think it's good to be aggressive. But sometimes you can hinder a team by taking bad shots when you're being a little bit too aggressive. For me, I feel like my strengths are just being able to do everything. Whether that's like, if I can't score off the dribble, I'll go inside, get an offensive rebound, putback. Just using all my tools to try to make an impact on the floor.”
Of course, Bundalo’s rising star will make for a crowded recruiting competition for the Buckeyes. Georgetown and Syracuse are among the most notable programs to extend offers his way recently, and Big Ten foes Illinois, Iowa, Penn State and Rutgers all have handed scholarships to Bundalo as well.
“They were one of the first big schools to offer me, and on top of all of that, obviously, hometown hero – everybody hears that."– Bundalo on Ohio State
And as excited as Bundalo was to get an offer from Ohio State, that hasn’t curbed any enthusiasm for the interest he’s getting from other major schools.
“Syracuse was crazy because the ACC, I mean obviously a lot of people want (to play there),” Bundalo said. “Carmelo Anthony, he just retired right before I got that offer. So Syracuse was crazy, ACC offer. Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers, really just all of the big-time offers. Before this, I only had like two of the low-majors. And then for me to just go to a tournament and then come back with two high-major offers right after that was pretty crazy.”
But Bundalo expects Ohio State to remain high on his radar for the duration of his recruitment.
Not only is Bundalo attracted to the prospect of representing his home state at the next level, but he also has a connection with a former Buckeye who knows the program inside and out. Bundalo said Malaki Branham, with whom he used to train, has raved about his time in scarlet and gray.
“They were one of the first big schools to offer me, and on top of all of that, obviously, hometown hero – everybody hears that,” Bundalo said. “Kid I used to work out with, Malaki Branham, played against him, worked out with him. Crazy good athlete, crazy good dude. But obviously talking to him, he said he really liked the environment and it was somewhere where he could really flourish both on the court and off the court. And just becoming a better person. He said he became a better person when he got out of Ohio State than when he was in there.”
Not yet a junior in high school, there’s still plenty of time for twists and turns in Bundalo’s recruitment. But after spending multiple days on campus over the past week, Ohio State appears to be in great standing with the talented 2025 prospect.