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In A New Era, John Harrar Is Still The Leader Penn State Hoops Needs

Ask anyone on the Penn State men’s basketball team, and they will tell you that John Harrar is the unquestioned leader of the locker room. Everyone who’s interacted with him, including former teammates and coaches, praises his work ethic and love for the game.

But for a few weeks this spring, Harrar’s future with Penn State seemed up in the air. He, like many others, entered the transfer portal at the end of a frustrating season with a new coach headed to Happy Valley.

Ultimately, though, his connection to Penn State and its community brought him back for one last ride with the Nittany Lions. He even said he hopes to bring his future family back to campus one day to share it with them.

“I’ll be walking downtown, and whenever someone says, ‘I’m glad you came back,’ my first response will be, ‘Thanks for inviting me back,’ because I felt very welcomed here,” Harrar said. “The community is what Penn State is all about.”

Even as a newcomer, head coach Micah Shrewsberry knew how important Penn State was to Harrar. It wasn’t hard to sell him on one final ride.

“A big part of John returning to Penn State was Penn State,” Shrewsberry said Monday. “Penn State sold itself. It’s been doing it for four years for him. John knows how special this place is.”

Harrar’s return is significant across the board. By sticking around, Penn State maintains its hardest worker on the court and at the glass. The Nittany Lions’ veteran leader is back and ready to lead a group chock-full of newcomers — something that’s key in a coach’s first season.

“Getting him back was huge,” Shrewsberry said. “I was really excited when he told me he was coming back. I was doing sprints around our office because I know how important he is to this program. It’s huge to have him back, and we’re really excited about that.”

Five new transfers have joined Penn State this season. Along with learning a whole new system and adjusting to new coaches, the team must build chemistry with each other. That’s easy to do when Harrar’s calling the shots.

“We go to the pool during the summer, and then during the fall we are all [going to be] hanging out at the football games,” Harrar said. “I think it is important to be a college student. You have to work and put in the work when it’s time to work. But when you have time to experience a place like Penn State and everything it has to offer, I think you get to do that.”

That mindset has led to team bonding on and off the court, and it might be the biggest thing Harrar can do to help this team. But it isn’t just the new players that are being helped with the return of Harrar to the program. Veterans like Myles Dread have also received a boost from his return.

“John is a great person,” Dread said. “One of the best people I have ever met. He’s a great leader, very charismatic, just a great teammate. To see him go would have hurt. But having him back, it just gives me another sense of confidence going into the season.”

Even Shrewsberry, who hasn’t been around Harrar as long as other members of the team, feels the passion that Harrar exudes every day. It’s a motivating factor for Shrewsberry to give him the best final season possible.

“I want him to have a great experience and finish it the right way,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s earned it, and he deserves it.”

When fans and teammates say Harrar is the heart and soul of this team, it is easy to see why. He’ll need to be the glue that unites the veterans and the transfers, but there is little doubt that he can’t do just that.

Even in a new era, John Harrar is still the leader Penn State — its players, its fans, and its community — needs.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a junior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in Secondary Education and minoring in Social Justice in Education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the tv show Survivor, and yes mom, actually doing schoolwork. If you would like to talk about sports or Survivor, the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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