One Last “Harrar” for Seniors Against Minnesota

Story posted March 4, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

Penn State’s 84-65 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers Wednesday night wasn’t just any other victory for the Nittany Lions. It wasn’t just a rebound after a dreadful 73-52 loss to Purdue on Friday. It didn’t just give interim head coach Jim Ferry more confidence in his squad as postseason play nears.

It was the final time that five Nittany Lions—Jamari Wheeler, John Harrar, Trent Buttrick, Kyle McCloskey and Taylor Nussbaum—would step on their homecourt together.

Although their parents couldn’t visit the quintet on the court due to COVID-19 protocols, they were in attendance as they watched the four seniors and redshirt junior McCloskey receive their robes after they all started the 40-minute contest.

The group wasn’t exactly well-recognized coming out of high school, as Wheeler was the highest proclaimed prospect with three stars to his name. But that didn’t change Harrar’s mind about the resiliency and success of his class, one that took home NIT trophies as freshmen. He had one simple word to describe the bunch.

“Attitude,” Harrar said. “It’s been preached more than any other word since I’ve joined this program, and it matters. Things happen in your life, things happen on the basketball court. It’s not about the things that happened, it’s about how you respond to those things.”

The big man ended his BJC career with his fifth double-double of the year, seven offensive boards for his third-highest of the season, and a near-five-second hug with teary-eyed Ferry while leaving the court for the final time. The Delaware County native sits at seventh all-time on the Penn State offensive rebound list with 77, and his percentage in the category among Nittany Lions is the highest ever at 15.5%, 4% higher than Mike Watkins.

Wheeler was the second big name to see his last licks in the home white jerseys, as he also scored in double figures. The man who was known for his perimeter defense, passing and grittiness always found a way to improve, as his 3-point shooting went from 14% his freshman campaign to 37% this year. But as usual, the 6-foot guard from Florida was all smiles and jokes after the game.

“With all the seniors starting, we’re 1-0,” Wheeler said. “That will be a moment we’ll never forget. … Every senior I came here with, we’re all winners. The only thing we care about is winning, so it feels great that we had this opportunity.”

Buttrick also joined the scoring party when he tied a career high with 13 points, including a two-handed slam with a minute and change to go that caused an eruption on the Penn State bench.

While McCloskey and Nussbaum were unable to get any points on the board, Ferry and their teammates remained proud of the work they’ve put in to get to their positions. After playing a year of football for Villanova, McCloskey became the fourth member of his family to wear the Blue and White for sports. Preferred walk-on Nussbaum said the improvement of basketball skills are night and day since he’s arrived on campus, and he credits his coaches and his teammates.

“We have a great program here as far as developing players; I think it’s one of the best in the country,” Nussbaum said. “These guys are my brothers, so I love going to compete with them every day.”

The 2017 class will play its final regular season game Sunday night at College Park against red-hot Maryland. They will then have their third opportunity to compete in the Big Ten Tournament, something they all missed out on last season.

 

Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jxm1237@psu.edu.