Penn State Basketball

Coaches say PSU commit’s heart always belonged to the hardwood

Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers reeled in the third player of his Class of 2017 on Sunday in Strath Haven’s John Harrar. The Pennsylvania product was originally committed to play Army football before reversing course for Penn State basketball.
Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers reeled in the third player of his Class of 2017 on Sunday in Strath Haven’s John Harrar. The Pennsylvania product was originally committed to play Army football before reversing course for Penn State basketball. adrey@centredaily.com

Strath Haven football coach Kevin Clancy failed to convince John Harrar to join his team during his first two years of high school.

Harrar — who committed to Penn State hoops on Sunday — saw himself as a basketball player.

“He didn’t want to do anything to distract from his basketball ability,” Clancy said. “Of course, I was trying to distract him big time. I kept telling him, ‘I think you can be a great football player.’”

Clancy didn’t stop recruiting Harrar until he went out for the football team his junior year. The coach turned out to be right as Harrar immediately became a starter, earned his teammates’ respect and developed into a Division I recruit. The 6-foot-8 Harrar, a star defensive end and tight end, even committed to play football at Army but, ultimately, Harrar still saw himself as a basketball player.

The forward announced his commitment to the Penn State men’s basketball team on Sunday night, becoming the Nittany Lions’ third player in the Class of 2017.

Harrar, who was not rated in basketball by Scout or Rivals, enjoyed a standout senior season. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, according to Pa Prep Live, on his way to Central League MVP and second-team all-state honors.

Now, he’ll continue his athletic career on the hardwood for the Nittany Lions.

“I think all along John knew he was a basketball player at heart,” Strath Haven basketball coach Dave McFadden said.

Harrar flew under the radar as a recruit in both sports, according to his coaches. When he met with college football coaches, Clancy said Harrar told them he remained undecided on which sport he planned to pursue in college. Clancy also said coaches didn’t know about him because he didn’t attend camps, but that changed this past fall. Interest grew when they watched film of his senior year, and Clancy said Harrar received full-scholarship offers from about 12 schools.

One football play from the season opener landed on his highlight tape. Harrar lined up at left defensive end on a quick screen pass to the right. The receiver ran 60 yards down the sideline, Clancy said, before Harrar caught him — passing the team’s strong safety to make the play — and forced a fumble.

Clancy said Harrar never came off the field and excelled on both sides of the ball and added that a lot of schools projected Harrar as an offensive tackle in college. Even though Harrar chose basketball, Clancy raved about his potential in football. Rivals recruiting analyst A.M. Allan even went so far as to call Harrar “one of the most athletic and talented, versatile players” to pledge to Army in the last three years.

“I think the guy could have been an NFL football player,” Clancy added. “I really do.”

Harrar dominated on the basketball court, too. McFadden said his big man could run the floor well and knew how to pass out of double teams in the post. He carried his team in its biggest games this season, leading Strath Haven past Conestoga in the Central League semifinals with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

From finding teammates for open 3-pointers to attacking the basket to knocking down late-game free throws, Harrar controlled the game and led his team into the championship.

“Everything he did that night was great basketball,” McFadden said.

McFadden said Penn State’s interest in Harrar developed in the past month after sending film to the Nittany Lions. From there, Penn State invited Harrar to visit, where he went through a workout. The forward then committed to Penn State on Sunday night, officially switching his plans from playing football in college to continuing his basketball career.

“We’re excited down here in Strath Haven because everybody wanted to see him land in the right place,” Clancy said.

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