Chauncey Hardy is seen here in a 2007 file photo from his playing days at Sacred Heart University.
"This is a terrible tragedy and we are saddened as a university and as a basketball program," Sacred Heart basketball coach Dave Bike said in a statement. "This is not just about a basketball player, but the person as well. It transcends what happens on a basketball court. We feel tremendous sadness and loss for Chauncey's family and those who were close to him."
Hardy's suspected killer, Ionut Adrian Tanasoaia, surrendered to police in Romania early Monday. He is accused of beating up Hardy in a bar in the southern Romanian city of Giurgiu on Saturday night.
Hardy was punched after he playfully put his cap on a woman's head, prosecutors said. They added that the woman's boyfriend objected to the gesture, and Hardy tried to show he didn't understand Romanian. Tanasoaia then allegedly punched Hardy on the chin and he fell to the ground.
Hardy died shortly after undergoing surgery in a Bucharest hospital on Sunday. He had sustained severe head injuries and was in a coma when he was admitted to the hospital.
"We are concerned by the violent circumstances surrounding the death of this U.S. citizen, and will pay close attention as the investigation progresses," the public diplomacy department of the U.S. Embassy said in an email to The Associated Press.
Hardy played for CSS Giurgiu in southern Romania.
Hardy arrived in Romania in August after playing basketball at Sacred Heart from 2006 through 2010 and helping lead the Pioneers to back-to-back appearances in the Northeast Conference Championship game in 2007 and 2008.
Hardy had his best scoring season as a junior, averaging 11.3 points with 101 assists helping lead SHU to the playoffs for the third-straight season. During his senior season, Hardy became the 29th player in school history to reach 1,000 points for his career.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a fine young man who had his life cut short at such a young age while he was overseas doing something he loved," stated C. Donald Cook, Executive Director of Athletics.