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Penn State Basketball: Thrown Into The Fire, Harrar Ready For Round Two

by on June 03, 2019 1:30 PM

John Harrar wasn't exactly ready for this.

That's not to say he wasn't prepared. You don't get thrown into the starting lineup during the 2018 NIT and proceed to play well by mistake, Harrar was ready for that.

But being a starter for an entire season? Needing to show up every single night and do a job and do it well? That doesn't happen over night and you could be forgiven for hitting a few bumps in the road along the way. There's a big difference between coming in fresh for a handful of games and knowing you might be the guy every game during the entire season.

And it showed during Penn State's 2018-19 campaign. Harrar played roughly 16 minutes a night working with Mike Watkins, averaging just about four points and four rebounds an outing. It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, but it was tough sledding.

That shouldn't have been a shock either, Harrar was -up until the moment Mike Watkins was injured- the self described last man off the bench in practice. He prepared in all the ways that bench players do, but with Watkins still recovering heading into last season, Harrar knew he had to find a new gear as the main man.

Finding that gear can be tough.

"It was very different. The summer leading up to last year I think I tried maybe taking on too much, trying so hard," Harrar said last week.

"And the whole mental thing, the freshman year I probably played eight games but during the those practices I would be the 15th man coming in. So my legs, my body, my mind were always fresh. But last year I would practice basically every minute and I played in every game, so just the mental game is what I'm working on now, how can I be mentally tough enough to keep my body right and my brain throughout the season."

It's an admirably honest assessment of his season, the mental grind of a year, let alone one in which you have placed immense pressure on yourself, is trying. In part it is what makes the likes of Lamar Stevens and former Penn State players like DJ Newbill and Tony Carr so impressive, willing to not only take on a starting role but one in which their team's ability to win lays squarely on their shoulders every single night.

Only special folks need apply for that job.

"I didn't know what i was getting myself into last year," Harrar added with a small laugh. "it was a roller coaster up and down. I met with coach a bunch, and our culture was strong enough that I could keep my head in the game. I knew what my coaches needed from me and what my team needed from me, but I could feel myself struggling."

The good news for everyone is that Harrar is older now, an asset that continues to pay dividends, especially in college sports. Another few months of finding himself can make all the difference, and year of playing under his belt a wealth of information of how to get the job done.

Now it's a matter of applying what he's learned, taking it a day at a time, and not putting so much pressure on himself to do it perfectly. Sometimes accepting that you will make a mistake is the best lesson an athlete can learn.

"Just [playing with] a clear head and play with the upmost confidence," Harrar said. "That starts in the summer, making your body right, making your mind right, coach is helping me with that with some self-help books, coach is the man for that, so I'm in good hands."

"I learned how to make a comeback. What does it take every day, even when you're losing and things aren't going good, how are you going to show up that day, when things are hard?"

Harrar will never be the star player on Penn State's roster, and he isn't asking for that role, but an attitude like that multiple across a roster, will go a long way during a pivotal season.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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