Tennessee's Tobias Harris (12) dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Memphis Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
KNOXVILLE — Tobias Harris took a much-needed seat in a hallway on the second floor of Pratt Pavilion on Tuesday afternoon following a nonstop 30-minute workout.
For the first time since the moments following a 30-point loss in the NCAA basketball tournament ended his freshman season, Tennessee’s star forward faced questions about his future.
“I’m getting some good positive feedback from a lot of people,” he said, “but as far as a setup with teams, my dad is pretty much handling a lot of that stuff. I’m just going right along with it.”
Harris and teammate Scotty Hopson have entered their names in the pool for the NBA draft, though neither has hired an agent and can elect to withdraw from the draft before the May 8 deadline. Unlike Harris, Hopson has not been in Knoxville working out with the Volunteers’ new coaching staff the last two weeks.
“I don’t know when he’ll return,” new head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I know he’s working out a lot and here shortly he’ll start working out for teams. Right now he’s working out with different trainers, but when he starts working out for NBA teams I think that will give him a real gauge of where he stands in the draft. He’s been good about his academics as far as communicating with his professors.”
Harris, who averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season, has elected to remain at UT for workouts, though he went to Houston last weekend to work out with John Lucas and plans to do so again.
“Scotty’s situation is a little different because he decided this is what he wants to do, and he wants to go to the NBA,” Harris said. “I respect his decision just because he’s working hard and I’m here working out, so we’re both working hard. He’s doing what he wants to do. That’s his personal decision, but whatever he does, I hope the best for him because he’s a great player.
“As for myself, I’m just here because there is a chance I could come back. I’m just going to work out with the team, because the workouts that we’re doing out there are pretty much pro workouts.”
Most projections have Harris in the middle of the first round, though some players slotted ahead of him — such as Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and North Carolina’s John Henson and Tyler Zeller — have decided to return to school.
At 6-foot-8, Harris has the combination of size and shooting ability to go along with an unselfish attitude and relentless work ethic that make him an attractive prospect. He fits the bill of a ’tweener, though, who would play small forward as a pro though he has questionable lateral quickness to guard that position.
“I would imagine he’s weighing all of his options, and he’ll do the right thing,” Martin said. “He’s a very intelligent young man. He has the right people around him helping him make the right decisions, and I just think he wants to be smart and really evaluate as opposed to putting both feet in [when] he’s not sure about everything.”
While he’s gathering and analyzing the pertinent information for his decision, Harris is battling through intense workouts with the new coaches and developing relationships with them.
“I think the coaching staff is really a great group of guys,” he said. “They’re pretty much amazing, and I think people need to give them more respect. Martin’s a real tough coach on us now and he’s pushing me not only in these workouts, but as a person also.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...