KNOXVILLE — Tobias Harris took home different sets of practice gear from each of the 13 pre-draft workout stops he made during the last month.
Now he'll trade 12 of them for a winter coat.
The Charlotte Bobcats took the former Tennessee star with the 19th pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night, though the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Harris' rights will end up with the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team trade agreed to in principle earlier Thursday afternoon.
Draft-day trades not completed before 3 p.m. are put on official hold until after the draft. Harris, who averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a freshman last season for the Volunteers, became the first UT player taken in the draft since Marcus Haislip and Vincent Yarbrough were drafted in 2002.
“All along I've believed it's just a true blessing that I'm here,” Harris said in a phone interview with the Times Free Press late Wednesday night. “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. It's just a great feeling.”
Most mock drafts had Harris going in the middle of the first round. The last stop on Harris' workout tour was with the Bucks, who feature point guard Brandon Jennings, center Andrew Bogut and soon-to-be acquired swingman Stephen Jackson.
“He's versatile. At 6-8, he's an old-school kind of player with a unique skill set,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said during the draft broadcast. “He's got a 6-11 wingspan, he's a smart player and he's got a high basketball IQ. He can step away and knock down a perimeter shot. He's got a smoothness to his game and he can make the game look easy at times.
“I think he needs to get stronger. He's not yet an elite athlete, but he does have a very good vertical leap. I think he's going to be solid player in the NBA that has a chance to get better and better over time.”
Though he will have to transition from playing power forward in college to small forward in the NBA, Harris believes his versatility and work ethic made him an attractive prospect.
“I think [my game] fits well, me being able to play many positions and be a scoring threat out there,” he said. “[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. 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.”
After submitting his name into the draft, Harris returned to Knoxville for individual workouts with the Vols and new coach Cuonzo Martin.
“I'm happy for Tobias and his family,” Martin said in a UT release. “He had a great freshman season, and he put himself in a position to be drafted in the first round. Barring injury, I think he's going to have a long and successful career. I think he'll be a good fit in Milwaukee because he can play multiple positions, and they have a great point guard in place.
Former UT head coach Bruce Pearl and associate head coach Tony Jones, who were fired by UT amid NCAA controversy in March after the Vols lost in the NCAA tournament, attended the draft in Newark, N.J., with Harris, his family and friends and teammates including rising UT sophomore Trae Golden and former UT center John Fields.
The No. 7 player in the 2010 recruiting class by Rivals.com, Harris chose the Vols with aspirations of winning titles. Pearl's NCAA issues overshadowed UT's disappointing season, but Harris still enjoyed his brief time at UT.
“I don't regret anything in life,” he said. “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.”
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 ...