KNOXVILLE - Tobias Harris had the worst shooting day of his brief University of Tennessee basketball career in Saturday's win at Ole Miss, but the Volunteers' fantastic freshman forward didn't let that slow his recent rebounding tear.
"You'd like to be able to teach guys to be in the right place at the right time, but it's a lost art," UT coach Bruce Pearl said Monday at his weekly news conference.
"He just knows where to be. Rebounding is all about positioning. He understands where [the ball] is coming off. Tobias is bigger than you think. He's worked hard at his body, and if it's in his neighborhood he's going to get it. He values the ball."
Harris made just two of his 12 shots from the field and scored six points, but he grabbed 12 rebounds. UT's 6-foot-8 star has six double-figure rebounding performances in the last 10 games, including a 9.7 average in six Southeastern Conference games.
But after rolling his left ankle in the second half Saturday, Harris missed Monday's practice and his status for Thursday's game at Auburn is uncertain. Pearl said the ankle has been in a boot and receiving treatment, but it's stiff and painful.
That left Brian Williams, the Vols' 6-foot-10 senior center, unopposed to stake his claim to the title as the team's best rebounder after Monday's workout.
"By far, me. 'Cause we [are both] light-skinned, those are all my rebounds that they put on his stat sheet," joked the always playful Williams.
Guard Scotty Hopson remained on the fence.
"I just say go with the stats," said UT's leading scorer (16.5 points per game). "It's tough because Brian is good rebounding away from his area. Because he's so big, he's able to go in between different defenders and get rebounds. Tobias, when there's an opportunity, he sees it and knows how to get it."
Harris (7.7) gets the nod over Williams (7.6) on averages, but Williams, who's flourished since his move to the bench six games ago, is averaging 14 rebounds per 40 minutes - three more than Harris.
Nevertheless, the two give the Vols size and strength on the glass, an important facet for a team that claims its identity is defense and rebounding.
"Sometimes it doesn't come your way, but most of the time you have to go get it," Williams said. "I'm just glad I got Tobias on the other side to get the rebounds that I don't get. You've got to have effort. You've got to be strong, want it more than your opponent, learn how to box out, see the ball and explode and get it."
Unlike Williams, however, Harris possesses the skills to grab the rebound and run his own fastbreak.
"He also enjoys the fact he can rebound and we let him take it and push it down the floor," Pearl said. "That's a very special, unique talent for a power forward."
Said Hopson: "It gets us into the flow of the game better. I'm just trying to get to a spot as quickly as possible. He tells me either space out when he's driving or make a back-cut 'cause he'll find me. We're doing a good job of playing together."