Penn State landed a commitment for 2017 forward John Harrar on Sunday night. But this wasn’t the first time he had given his pledge to a school.
Back in January, Harrar committed to West Point as a tight end who held offers from Temple, New Mexico and UMass, according to Rivals.
However, Penn State offered his a scholarship to play basketball last month. The coaching staff was also on hand for several of his games with the Philly Pride of the Under Armour Association during the April live recruiting evaluation periods.
“I visited April 19,” Harrar told Scout. “I fell in love with the campus. I felt really comfortable hanging out with the coaches and meeting the other players. Plus, being from Pennsylvania, everyone should want to go to Penn State. Great school with great academics.”
Harrar, a 6-foot-9 center, averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Philly Pride, which ended the first two weekends in the UAA with a 6-2 record. Harrar registered one double-double in April.
He joins power forward Trent Buttrick and shooting guard Jamari Wheeler, a pair of three-star recruits, in Penn State’s incoming class.
LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 4 Iowa State comes back to beat Iowa
With Jarrod Uthoff scoring 30 points in the first half the Hawkeyes took a 14-point lead into the halftime break and led by as much as 20 in the early stages of the second half. But as many expected the Cyclones steadily worked their way back into the game, with a Monté Morris jumper with 8.9 seconds remaining completing the comeback. Steve Prohm’s team stays undefeated as a result, and Iowa misses out on what could have been a valuable win for their non-conference résumé.
Penn State 81, Canisius 67: Patrick Chambers’ Nittany Lions moved to 6-3 on the season with a 14-point win over the Golden Griffins at Rec Hall (Penn State’s home before their move to the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996). Brandon Taylor led four Penn State players in double figures with 18 points and Josh Reaves accounted for eight points, ten rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Seton Hall 78, Troy 69: The Pirates got complacent after their quick start Thursday night, resulting in this game being tougher than many anticipated. Isaiah White head scored 20 points and Desi Rodriguez added 18 and 11 rebounds to lead the way for Kevin Willard’s team, which is now 7-2 on the season. Troy freshman Jordon Varnado led all scorers with 25 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds.
First-half Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: Uthoff scored 30 points on 11-for-13 shooting and grabbed six rebounds in the first half of Iowa’s game at No. 4 Iowa State.
Jameel McKay, Iowa State: McKay racked up 20 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 10-for-12 from the field in Iowa State’s win over in-state rival Iowa.
Camyn Boone, Missouri State: Boone finished with 24 points and ten rebounds as the Bears beat IUPUI 88-74.
Second-half Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: On the receiving end of more attention, Uthoff shot 1-for-7 from the field and scored just two points in the second half. Iowa State would come back to win 83-82.
T.J. Carpenter, Nicholls State: Carpenter shot 1-for-11 from the field in the Colonels’ blowout loss at San Diego State.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
Tim Coleman scored 27 points and Ky Howard added 23 as NJIT picked up a 92-86 overtime win at St. Francis-Brooklyn. Tyreek Jewell led five Terriers in double figures with 21 points.
Cheddy Mosely scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds and John Papale added 17 points as Boston University took care of UMass-Lowell, 80-60.
Having already picked up a win at Mississippi State, Southern beat Wyoming 68-58 in Laramie. Trelun Banks led the way with 21 points, as the Jaguars won despite Wyoming’s Josh Adams leading all scorers with 25 points.
Kellon Thomas and Xavier Pollard scored 16 points apiece to lead Kent State to a 73-62 win over ULM. ULM’s Jamaal Samuel led all scorers with 18 points, but the Warhawks were outscored 23-9 at the foul line.
Idaho held off Washington State 78-74, with Perrion Callandret leading the way with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Vandals have beaten the Cougars in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1989-90.
Jeremy Hemsley scored 20 points and Trey Kell 15 as San Diego State blew out Nicholls State, 84-47. The Aztecs forced 20 Nicholls State turnovers in the win.
The connections of the Penn State coaching staff to the Philadelphia basketball scene have resulted in multiple recruits making their way west to State College to play for head coach Patrick Chambers. But the 2016 recruiting class has the talent to be difference-makers for a program in need of a boost, and Friday afternoon Penn State added a third Philadelphia native to what is now a four-member class.
6-foot-7 small forward Lamar Stevens, who trimmed his list to eight schools in late July, verbally committed to Penn State during a press conference held at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. Stevens joins high school teammates Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick, and Oak Hill Academy forward Joe Hampton, in Penn State’s 2016 recruiting haul.
While Penn State’s biggest personnel losses after the 2015-16 season will come in the front court, adding talent to the perimeter was also key for the Nittany Lions. Adding the versatile Stevens to the mix, as he has the skill, athleticism and strength to play either wing position, will certainly help in this regard.
In addition to the four freshmen Penn State will also add former UConn guard Terrence Samuel in 2016-17. Samuel, who was a contributor during UConn’s 2014 national title run, is sitting out the 2015-16 season per NCAA transfer rules.
Back in mid-August it was reported by the Clarion-Ledger that four-star small forward Mario Kegler would be taking visits to four schools, with the dates yet to be determined. Saturday NBCSports.com confirmed the dates for Kegler’s four official visits, as well as a change in one of the schools that will be hosting him.
Kegler, who’s a senior at Oak Hill Academy after spending last year at Arlington Country Day in Florida, will take his first official visit next weekend (September 18-20) with Arizona State being the hosts. That will be followed by a trip to Penn State the following weekend (September 25-27), with Maryland (October 15-17) and Indiana (October 23-25) also on Kegler’s itinerary.
News of Kegler’s visit dates was first reported by Scout.com.
The change in all of this is that Penn State will have the opportunity to host Kegler. In mid-August it was reported that UConn was one of the four schools that would host Kegler, with Arizona State, Maryland and Indiana being the others.
The Jackson, Mississippi native still has one official visit at his disposal, and the setting up of four official visits does not mean that Kegler has trimmed his list either. Kegler holds many offers, one of which being from a Mississippi State program that hosted him on an unofficial visit in early August.
After playing four seasons of college basketball at Penn State, forward Ross Travis decided to give pro football a shot. While the 6-foot-7 Minnesota native was seen as having the build and athleticism required to give such a transition a chance, he hadn’t played football since his freshman year of high school.
Given the lack of experience it came as no surprise that Travis wasn’t taken in this spring’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t keep him from working towards the goal of landing a spot with an NFL franchise. And Sunday that perseverance paid off, as Travis was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP Minneapolis.
The practice squad is different from the 53-man roster that teams had to work their way down to this weekend (the 53-man roster deadline fell on Saturday), as it consists of ten players who went through the waiver process prior to joining said group. And he joins a team that already has one tight end who has made the transition from college basketball to the pro gridiron in former Milwaukee forward Demetrius Harris.
Kansas City has four tight ends on its 53-man roster, led by Travis Kelce, and it goes without saying that making the move from the practice squad to the active roster can be tough for any player much less one with the on-field experience of Travis. But, being on the practice squad allows Travis to get the reps that he’ll need as he looks to make that transition.
Hard work, tough love turn Ar’Mond Davis into Division I prospect
For young athletes hoping to earn a Division I scholarship, there’s no one set path to that goal. While many take the seemingly straightforward track from high school to college, the experiences on the way are anything but similar. And then there are those whose life experiences result in a more circuitous journey, with the need for positive influences and an unwillingness to give up being even greater.
That’s been the case for Ar’Mond Davis, who dealt with tough situations throughout his time in high school. From dealing with a living situation that was at times uncertain and having his coaches pick him up at a local mall so as to keep his issues private, to now being the focus of many major college programs’ recruiting efforts. It’s safe to say that Ar’Mond Davis has come a long way.
While Davis’ solid freshman season at the College of Southern Idaho led to his being selected to play in last month’s JucoRecruiting.com Elite 80 West Showcase in Las Vegas, the journey began in Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma may not get the national pub that Seattle does but the city hasn’t lacked for high-level basketball talent in recent years, with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley being the most noteworthy products who have gone from Tacoma to the Division I level and then on to the professional ranks, where they currently play alongside each other in the Boston Celtics back court.
For Davis to keep his chances of joining that list alive, he had to overcome a set of circumstances that can derail a young person and make their dreams unreachable.
“Sometimes just having to worry about where I’d stay or what I was going to eat, stuff like that,” Davis told NBC Sports during a phone interview, and it’s understandable that a person would be a bit guarded, not wanting to reveal too much to outsiders when it comes to family hardships.
With the unpredictability of his life at the time, having a routine he could rely on was incredibly valuable to Davis and that was (and still is) something he could find in basketball. The security of being able to pick up a ball and work on his game aided Davis as a youngster, and that only strengthened with his move from Lincoln High School to Foss High School in the spring of his junior year. There he would play for coach Mike Cocke, who looked to provide both the encouragement and discipline his newest addition needed after spending the last couple of seasons working to find neutralize Davis one the court.
“He’s an inner-city kid from a single-parent household with his mother raising him and his older brother being his role model,” Cocke said. “The thing he lacked when he showed up at our school was discipline within the classroom. Some stuff at home probably could have been a little tighter than it was, and that hurt him a little bit.
“Because by the time he showed up at Foss, his dreams of playing Division I college basketball right after high school would have been pretty hard to achieve. My biggest thing was I knew the talent and the kind of kid he was; he was never a bad person, he just never had a male role model to instill some discipline in him and make him a better person on and off the floor.”
Davis’ time at Foss was successful on multiple levels. Not only was he a standout for the team there, but it also led to his joining the Portland-based I-5 Elite grassroots program in the summer prior to his senior year. Running the program was head coach Kumbeno Memory, who played against Cocke at the junior college level, and that connection ultimately led to the high school coach knowing that there was another mentor willing and able to provide Davis with the help he needed in basketball and beyond to reach his dreams.
“Cocke reached out to Beno and said that he had a kid who was looking for a positive situation,” said I-5 Elite coach Chris Foss. “A situation where he could not only get some tough love but some guidance as well, which was something we were able to provide.”
And it didn’t take Davis, who originally played for the Team ACCESS program, very long to make an impression on his new I-5 Elite teammates. As a matter of fact, that would occur in Davis’ first practice with the team.
“I just remember that first day of practice he was kind of a quieter kid initially, a little more reserved and he let his actions speak for him,” Foss noted. “We play a really fundamental brand of basketball but we don’t have the high-flyers that everybody else has. That day, we don’t normally do it, we started out with a “3-on-2, 2-on-1” drill; we normally do a lot out of the secondary break. They’re going down, someone threw him a pass and he just elevated, cocked the ball back and ‘BOOM.’
“We’re really high on kids talking on the court, having a high IQ and a motor, which are traits that we’ve been able to have success with and have kids overachieve. At the start we’re like, ‘OK, real quiet kid,’ and then he did that and it was like ‘the gym’s woken up.’ This was a little bit different than what we were used to, but from day one he was willing to buy in to what we were trying to do and could just tell he was a really sincere kid.”
While Davis flourished with his new program, there were also signs that his experiences weren’t in line with those of the average child. With that in mind, coaches looked to do the best they could to ensure that Davis understood that they would be there to help him out whenever he needed assistance.
“To be honest, I wasn’t as well-versed in what he was going through until we played in a tournament in Bellevue (Washington) to start the July live period,” Foss noted. “We practiced in Portland the week before and went up there the following Thursday (the day before the event started) and he had us pick him up at the mall instead of going to pick him up at his house.
“Just kind of being private with everything he was going through at the time,” Foss continued. “Just finding out as things went on, sitting down and having talks with him or hearing about it from Cocke or other people who were close to him, and we realized that he doesn’t have it like everyone else does. And it kind of showed why he did some of the things that he did, but our immediate and only response has been to give him a ton of love.”
After averaging just over 26 points per game as a senior at Foss High School, Davis went through the process of choosing a junior college that would best prepare him to make the jump to a four-year school not only athletically but academically as well. While there were initial thoughts of remaining close to home for junior college, Davis ultimately took the challenge of joining a College of Southern Idaho (CSI) program that annually ranks among the best in the country.
“In the recruiting process he was actually one of the easier guys to recruit,” CSI assistant Brock Morris said. “And what I mean by that is, we get a lot of high-level guys here and a lot of guys need to hear what you can do for them. With Ar’Mond we were able to challenge him, ask if he’s willing to compete with the best or not and he said he wanted to take on that opportunity. That, to me, stuck out.
“This isn’t a guy shying away from [the competition]. He came off the bench last year, was our second-leading scorer and didn’t complain at all. I think that translated back to his recruitment.”
On a deep roster Davis made the most of his playing time in 2014-15, averaging 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in helping CSI win 31 games and make the trip to Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas that junior college programs aim for every season. There are multiple reasons why Davis was able to play as well as he did as a freshman. Of course, there’s the talent and the desire to advance in his basketball career.
But in talking with Cocke, Foss and Morris there was a label that each felt fit Davis well: gym rat. And not the kind of self-proclaimed gym rat who sends out proclamations of “no days off” on social media, only for their in-game production to not be on par with that label. Davis has put in the work, with his coaches being witnesses to his development.
“Absolutely. He’s always been that way,” Cocke said. “It doesn’t really matter what time of day it is, send him a text saying ‘Hey, the gym’s open’ and he’ll show up and work out. He always wants to play, and if he’s not playing with us he’s playing at a local gym by his apartment, or he’s up in Seattle just trying to find a gym to work on his game or get a run in.”
Those years of using basketball as both a way to forget about the hand life dealt him and a path to a better life have paid off for Davis, who’s expected to be a leader for his CSI team as a sophomore. There’s also the recruiting aspect, with programs such as Alabama, Penn State, Memphis (he’ll visit there the second weekend in September), Missouri and Texas A&M either offering scholarships or in the case of A&M showing interest (A&M eventually did offer Davis).
With his ability to score at multiple levels and a desire to improve defensively as well, Davis can be an impact addition to a Division I program when he makes that move. Thanks to the combination of coaches who refused to let him quit and his own work ethic, Davis is well on his way to making strides as both an athlete and a young man.
“Coach Cocke was really helpful, because he’d help guide me and make sure I kept going in the right direction,” Davis said. “My I-5 Elite coach was really helpful too. There would be times when I’d think about giving up, but they kept on me to make sure I kept working to be successful.”