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A Look Back At John Harrar’s Prideful Penn State Career

There are very few players who are universally beloved by coaches, teammates, fans, and even opponents. There are also very few players who embody an entire program and what that program stands for. John Harrar has done both for Penn State men’s basketball.

Harrar is not the best player to ever wear the blue and white. He is not Lamar Stevens, Jesse Arnelle, Talor Battle, and so on and so on. The truth is, he didn’t need to be that kind of player. His role was not defined by how many points he scored, but by how hard he worked.

Every season since he came to Happy Valley in 2017, Harrar has improved. In his first season, he averaged 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game while logging 7.2 minutes per game over 27 games. He continued to put in the work, and in his sophomore season, he averaged 3.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while playing 16 minutes per game over 32 games.

The growth continued into his junior season, as he averaged 4.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He managed to do that while averaging 17 minutes per game over 31 games played. In those first three seasons, Harrar’s role was mainly on the bench. In 2020, he became a starter for the first time and continued to put in the work that gave him more and more minutes as his career progressed.

This year, Harrar posted a career-best 10.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while averaging 27 minutes played over 31 games. He is also one of two players to finish the season averaging a double-double alongside Kofi Cockburn of Illinois.

Harrar’s growth is extraordinary, but it is in no way surprising. Countless players and coaches have touted his worth ethic and leadership skills. When head coach Micah Shrewsberry took over last year, he knew how important having Harrar back on the team was. Once Harrar declared he would stick around in Happy Valley, Shrewsberry knew he’d be a difference-maker.

“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.”

Teammate Myles Dread also had nothing but positive things to say about Harrar. He noted that Harrar is not just a great leader, but a great person overall.

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

You don’t need to just hear it from current coaches and teammates because past coaches will tell you the same exact thing.

“John Harrar is the greatest leader I’ve ever been around,” former Penn State head coach and current UMBC head coach Jim Ferry said. “He’s the most consistent human being in everything. Every single day, he comes with a great approach on life and basketball. He leaves every single ounce of energy he has on the floor every night.”

Rival Big Ten coaches even have a lot of praise for how Harrar plays the game. When the Nittany Lions upset Michigan State this season, head coach Tom Izzo had nothing but kind words for the senior.

“There’s no question John Harrar was the difference in this game,” Izzo said after a loss to Penn State. “He’s gotten better every year — doesn’t complain about what he’s doing. He just keeps getting stronger, better. Tonight, he was the hero.”

As he prepares to hang up his sneakers and leave Penn State’s locker room, Harrar might go down as one of the most determined players in Nittany Lions history. His appreciation for the culture, his perseverance through organizational obstacles, and his overwhelming sense of pride may stand taller than anything on the scoresheet.

The great thing about Harrar is that every time there is a challenge, he rises to meet it. Sometimes he knocks it out of the park, but defeats happen, too. No matter the outcome, you can safely bet that he is going back to the gym to workout and improve his game.

Penn State owes a lot to John Harrar. He stuck with the school and embraced it with his whole heart. He will be remembered as what it truly means to play like a Nittany Lion.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a senior 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 school work. 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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