KNOXVILLE - The firing and hiring of coaches in basketball and baseball, the surprising resignation of the athletic director, an ongoing case with the NCAA, more than half a basketball season and four weeks of spring football.
It's been a busy five-plus months on the Tennessee beat since I jumped onboard in January, to say the least.
So it only makes sense that I'm spending a chunk of this week focusing on the NBA draft, an annual event from which the Vols have been absent for nine years. The last time a UT player heard their name called on draft was the 2002 draft, when Yao Ming went first overall and Vols Marcus Haislip and Vincent Yarbrough went 13th and 33rd, respectively.
That seems very likely to change tonight, when Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson find out their professional futures after their UT careers. I wrote about Hopson for Thursday's Times Free Press after speaking with him via cell phone as he was at the airport about to fly to Detroit for a workout this morning.
I got in touch with Harris about five minutes before our 11 p.m. deadline on Wednesday night. The Vols' first-ever one-and-done player was busy most of the day in New York, and he'll be attending the draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., though he won't be in the Green Room with many of the lottery prospects.
Harris' biggest challenge at the next level will be transitioning from a college power forward to an NBA small forward. He said he's slimmed down to 220 pounds and toned his body in an attempt to become more explosive to play on the perimeter. The NBA is, however, shifting toward becoming a smaller league - see Miami's LeBron James and Dallas' Shawn Marion guarding each other at the power forward spot in the NBA Finals - and Harris' inside-out abilities, high upside and low risk make him an attractive prospect.
Both of the draft experts I follow - ESPN's Chad Ford and DraftExpress.com - have Harris pegged as the 22nd pick to Denver, a very likely scenario unless the Nuggets trade the pick (another possible scenario). From a couple of people close to Harris that I've spoken with, Denver has liked Harris for a while, and the Nuggets were one of the 13 teams with which he worked out.
Anyways, here's part of the conversation I had with Harris late Wednesday night in Q-and-A form:
Q: What were your thoughts on how your individual workouts went?
A: I thought all the workouts went very well. I thought I continued to show my game and show them a lot of things they didn’t expect that I can do out there.
Q: How does your game fit in the NBA?
A: I think it fits well, me being able to play many positions and be a scoring threat out there. [I’m] somebody to make plays. I think it fits real well in terms of me being such a hard-worker, and the game that I have now, a lot of scouts have said that it fits the NBA type of game.
Q: In your mind and based on the feedback NBA personnel have given you, what's your biggest asset as a player?
A: My work ethic, my upside, being a good person on and off the floor. I feel a lot of teams are really interested, and I think whichever team picks me, I’ll have a great opportunity to play for and they’ll have an opportunity to get a great all-around player and person.
Q: How much of a dream has this been for you? What are your emotions less than 24 hours away?
A: It’s surreal, knowing that it’s just so close, but all along I’ve believed it’s just a true blessing that I’m here. It’s part of God’s plan, and I believe wherever I go, whatever pick I am, it’ll be the plan that God has led me with. I’m fulfilling it and fulfilling my dreams. Since I was a little kid, my goal was to play in the NBA, and that’s so close. I fail to realize how close it is sometimes. It’s just a great feeling.
Q: When you look back at your year at Tennessee, do you wish some things had gone differently with all the outside adversity and circumstances with former coach Bruce Pearl? It seemed like you really enjoyed college, but do you wish it had been different?
A: I don’t regret anything in life. I think everything happens for a reason, and I look at it as God’s plan with everything. Yeah, I wish the year could have gone a little smoother and all the NCAA troubles weren’t interfering with us, but at the same time, I built so many relationships with th guys on the team. We’re like brothers forever, and it’s a great feeling when you have that. I met so many new people at Tennessee, my time there was amazing and I loved it. Whenever I have a chance to go back, I’m going to go back and always have a good time.
Q: You'll be at the draft, have you picked out a good-looking suit yet? You know draft fashion is always a big deal, right?
A: I’ve heard it is a big, but they call me ‘All-Business’ for a reason, so you know I’m going to pull out the nicest suit
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 ...
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