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John Harrar Creating A Penn State ‘The Basketball Tournament’ Team

John Harrar may have graduated from Penn State, but there was something missing from his bucket list of accomplishments: playing competitive, tournament-style basketball. This summer, he’ll finally be able to check that accomplishment off.

The Basketball Tournament, or TBT for short, is a tournament featuring teams from around the country that compete for a chance to win $1 million. These teams can include rosters made up of overseas professionals, they can be parts of charity organizations, or, as in the case of this new Penn State team, can be made up of alumni from a specific program.

TBT closely resembles the NCAA Tournament in size, yet has a few different rules. The two biggest are nine-minute quarters instead of 20-minute halves and the Elam Ending rule. The Elam Ending rule is when in the fourth quarter, instead of time running out, a team has to reach a target score. Once a team reaches that target score, the game is over. The target score varies per game.

Harrar was first introduced to TBT by current Penn State men’s basketball assistant Grady Eifert. Eifert organized a Purdue alumni team called Men of Mackey, named after the stadium where the Boilermakers play their home games. There was a last-second need for a big man on the roster, and Eifert successfully got Harrar to join. Needless to say, Harrar was impressed.

“The big thing that hit home was how these guys get together every year and enjoy themselves and have fun,” Harrar said. “Yeah, with TBT we get to play basketball, but we also get to see guys we played with when we were younger and hopefully other guys we haven’t played with but went to the same school as us.”

As for who those guys are, Harrar stresses that while some have said yes, there is no 100% guarantee that they’ll be on the roster as the summer rolls around. Schedules change and opportunities may arise that may require more attention. That said, the list of people who are currently on board is full of Penn State greats.

“Right now these are commitments, and summer comes along and something may pop up. But right now, I have received a yes from Shep Garner, Tony Carr, Mike Watkins, Nazeer Bostick, Josh Reaves, Trent Buttrick, and Jamari Wheeler,” Harrar said.

He also mentioned that he’s trying to convince players like Jeff Brooks, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack to join him and the other Penn State alumni.

If the mix of past players coming back together isn’t enough to draw fans in, Harrar hopes to connect with the current team and head coach Micah Shrewsberry to reconnect with the community.

“The plan is to have a camp at Penn State for three days before our first game, and again, that’s about bringing the past and connecting them to the present with Coach Shrews,” Harrar said. “I want to do what Coach Shrews is doing there.”

At the end of the day, Penn State fans are going to be excited to see very competitive, tournament-style games with Nittany Lions legends involved. For context, fans can watch the top 10 plays from 2020, when teams were in a bubble, and a team named Sideline Cancer from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania nearly won it all. In fact, the team pulled off an upset equivalent to Saint Peter’s beating Kentucky in the most recent NCAA Tournament. The energy and excitement is exactly what Penn State fans are looking for.

It isn’t just about basketball for Harrar, though. It’s about reconnecting with friends, reminiscing about the good ol’ days, and even acknowledging the 2019-20 team that could’ve made a run in the NCAA Tournament had it not been canceled.

“The 2020 team, where we were top 10 in a country, never really got to celebrate as a team due to COVID. We didn’t have a banquet or anything!” Harrar said. “Pulling this off, it will be the first time everyone is back together, plus members of the NIT team and other players from farther back.”

Getting some of the best Nittany Lions to return would be very fun for fans, and who knows? Maybe they’ll raise a banner of their own someday. One thing is for sure, however. With Shrewsberry and Co. continuing to get better and Harrar bringing alumni back onto the court, Penn State is slowly becoming a…basketball school?

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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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