STATE COLLEGE — Consistency remains at the forefront of John Harrar’s consciousness each time he takes the court.
From practice to games, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior forward resolves to stay emotionally stable, no matter what challenges or obstacles he and his teammates face.
The success he’s enjoyed from it, he said, is the byproduct of the amount of trust coach Pat Chambers and his teammates have placed in him.
“I think that it’s the confidence that coach has in me,” Harrar said. “He spends a lot of time checking in with my mindset. He texted me for hours after the (Minnesota) game making sure my mindset hasn’t changed from the first time I started or from the start of the season.”
Harrar entered No. 13 Penn State’s (19-5, 9-4 Big Ten) starting lineup on Jan. 15 in relief of Mike Watkins. The Nittany Lions lost their contest at Minnesota that evening, which handed the program its third consecutive loss. Harrar finished with six points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
Harrar has remained in the Nittany Lions’ starting lineup since, and he’s played a more than just a bit role in the team’s recent seven-game win streak.
While he’s averaging only 4.3 points per game, his value has come on the defensive end.
Penn State’s latest weekend contest pitted Harrar against the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder in Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu. Oturu scored 32 points, and Harrar played a career-high 34 minutes, topping the 30 he logged in 2018 against DePaul.
Chambers complimented Harrar’s efforts against Oturu and the Golden Gophers.
“John's ball screen defense was unbelievable for most of the game,” Chambers said.
Harrar said he refers to the Big Ten as the “league of the bigs.” Going up against talented post players such as Oturu only refine and strengthen his game. He's held his own against also premier league post players such as Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis and Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman.
“Oturu’s a great player — he’s a lottery pick (in the NBA draft),” Harrar said. “His potential is through the roof, and he gets things done. He also produces. I think Minnesota’s coaches saw that, so they made sure he touched the ball every possession.
Harrar’s averaging 18.4 minutes per game in Big Ten play, and he’s shooting 22-of-32 (.688 percent) from the field. He’s grabbed 47 rebounds (29 defense, 18 offense) to go with nine steals and five blocks.
His contributions have been a welcomed complement to Watkins.
“I think John has been a rock,” Chambers said. “He's been as steady as they come, and he's got confidence on the offensive end now. We're throwing the ball to him, and we have to continue to do that.”
A No. 13 national ranking and the hype that accompanies it hasn’t knocked Harrar’s focus from its center. He said he makes a conscious effort to stave off distractions, and he’s limited his use of social media in the hopes of doing just that. For him, it’s about taking each day one at a time — never thinking in the future, and not dwelling on the past.
“Staying in the moment,” Harrar said. “Always thinking about what I have to do today — I have to go practice, I have to defend, rebound against Mike (Watkins). That doesn’t change. I have to go tough on defense. Just staying in each moment and never getting ahead of yourself. Never look at the what-ifs.”