Before Ohio State fans get to see the Buckeyes’ five true freshmen take the court in scarlet and gray for the first time, several have made a splash at the Kingdom League.
One first-year Buckeye who hadn’t yet appeared at the annual summer ball tournament until this past weekend was Bowen Hardman, a Cincinnati native and the first commit in Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class. That changed on Sunday as the Princeton High School product made his Kingdom League debut.
Hardman didn’t make headlines like fellow Buckeye newcomer Brice Sensabaugh, who recently dropped 51 points at Ohio Dominican University, but the platform allowed the 6-foot-5 guard to get more reps in as he continues his transition to the next level over the summer. That transition has been difficult at times for the three-star recruit, but Hardman’s attitude toward it has been an undoubtedly positive one.
“It’s been good, I think that our young guys and even are older guys are doing really well. We are getting stronger, I think our biggest challenge is just in the weight room,” Hardman told Eleven Warriors Sunday. “But on the court, I think we’re all doing a great job and doing our parts.”
Listed at 160 pounds during his senior year of high school, it comes as little surprise that adding strength and weight to his frame has been Hardman’s foremost issue so far. The workout regimen at Ohio State far exceeds any Hardman previously adhered to, and stepping things up a notch is sure to come with growing pains for a prospect trying to take the next jump.
“I would definitely say the weight room, I think that’s the biggest thing. You lift in high school, but in college you lift lift,” Hardman said. “You figure out how you actually get stronger and transition from high school to college.”
“(The first few weeks) have definitely been tough. On the floor workouts have been a lot faster pace. The weight room’s huge, that’s a big part, that’s probably the toughest part so far. It’s definitely been really cool so far, just being able to be one of the guys, seeing different guys do different jobs, play different roles has been huge.”
OSU freshman guard Bowen Hardman showing off the athleticism in pregame warmups.— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) July 17, 2022
His team plays Felix Okpara and company in the final game of the day. pic.twitter.com/AbvTfPSSNN
But that’s not to say it’s been all bad for Hardman during his first summer at Ohio State. On the court, Hardman said his long-range marksmanship has allowed him to make plays and stand out among some of the more highly ranked freshmen in his class.
“Definitely my shooting has been a big factor that’s helped me a lot through the workouts,” Hardman said. “Definitely coming off ball screens, just reading plays. I think that’s been the best part for me so far. … It’s awesome (working with the Buckeye coaches). Just to get that hands-on experience with them right there telling you what to do different, what to do better. But also at the same time praising you for what you do well. It’s great to get that coaching.”
The offseason rigor has gotten the best of some Buckeye freshmen when it comes to injuries on the court. During his introductory press conference on July 7, new assistant to the head coach and director of scouting Nick Kellogg alluded to a small ailment Roddy Gayle has been working through. Sensabaugh missed last week’s Kingdom League slate with an injury.
“There’s a lot of different personalities, but I think once we’re all together it's really special, something that other teams don’t get to have."– Bowen Hardman on the new Buckeye roster
Hardman, however, has managed to remain healthy thus far, even after missing all but 10 games of his senior year of high school due to a severe ankle sprain suffered early in the season.
“(My body has held up) really well actually. I feel like from high school season with having the injury, I’ve held up really well,” Hardman said. “I’ve definitely done a great job of taking care of my body, which is huge at this level. Just grinding every day, being the same guy every day.”
As far as how the rest of the freshmen have been adjusting, Hardman said Sensabaugh may be the most impressive performer on the court so far. Which, if you saw his recent Kingdom League performance, shouldn’t come as a shock.
“I would definitely say Brice has stepped up big time,” Hardman said. “I think all the freshmen have kind of stepped in and done a better job than I think a lot expected. A lot of the transfers have done really well and all the returning players. But I think he’s one of the guys that stands out for our young guys. And then of course Zed (Key)’s gonna do what he does really well.”
Key’s role will be a vital one in bringing freshmen like Hardman along through the offseason and beyond, as the junior center is one of just two returning Buckeyes that played in more than two games last season, along with Eugene Brown III. Hardman said Key’s leadership has already paid dividends amid the first several weeks of training.
“I would definitely say Zed, I think he’s that main guy,” Hardman said. “Gene too, just because they’re the two most experienced players on the team. They know the offense, they know what we’re playing against, they know who we’re trying to go up against. I think those are gonna be the guys that lead us to our path.”
While the Buckeyes may not be in midseason form just yet, Hardman said the interesting mix comprising the revamped Ohio State roster is already coming together in cohesive fashion. There’s still plenty of work to be done in the months ahead, but Hardman and company are facing it head-on as the summer continues.
“It’s been really great. All the guys actually bond really, really well,” Hardman said. “There’s a lot of different personalities, but I think once we’re all together it's really special, something that other teams don’t get to have. But a lot of different personalities, a lot of funny guys, but we get along really well so far.”