The tutelage of Tobias - Part II

Transformation put Harris among elite
Tobias Harris

“You only live once, so why not try to take full advantage of everything?"

College basketball recruiters from all over the United States began monitoring the progress of Tobias Harris during the first three years of his prep basketball career.

The next time they saw him, some barely recognized him.

Harris undertook a grueling workout regimen under the watchful eyes of renowned athletic trainer Britton Kelley at the Parisi Speed School in Islip, N.Y.,  Together they accomplished an extreme makeover.

Harris’ six-days-per-week strength, conditioning and speed training included running, squats, springs, box jumps, explosion drills and sled pulls. The results sent Harris’ national reputation soaring, earning him a No. 7 ranking in the ESPNU 100.

Harris didn’t leave basketball by the wayside, either.

He was the sixth-leading scorer at the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp, dominated at the LeBron James Skills Camp and averaged better than 20 points and 10 rebounds in games in leading the Albany City Rocks AAU team to the semifinals of the Nike Peach Jam in South Carolina.

"All of my coaches, from high school to AAU and college, helped me learn and get better,” Harris said. “My trainers have also played a big role -- Jay Hernandez and Britton Kelley. They are two people who've really helped me get to where I'm at.

“Britton Kelley is the best strength coach I've had in my life -- he's probably the best in the country. He has really transformed my body and really made me a lot stronger. A lot of guys he has trained are in the NBA.

“A lot of guys have told me that I'm really strong for my age, and that's a credit to him and the plan he's put me on. To have that is a real boost and a huge reason why I'm at where I'm at."

Harris was chosen to participate in the 2010 McDonald’s All-American Game in Columbus, Ohio. He was well on his way to becoming a viable candidate for the game’s most valuable player award, hitting six of seven shots and 13 points in 12 minutes before he stepped on another player’s foot while going up for a dunk.

Harris broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and not only missed the rest of the game, but was unable to play in the Jordan Brand All-American game at Madison Square Garden and attend the 2010 USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team training camp. He  injury also forced him to miss playing for the 2010 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.

Before, during and after facing those trials, Harris said his faith carried him through.

“I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't have that,” he said. “I just try to bring every situation I'm in to God. I'm a strong Christian, and whatever situation I'm in, I try to embrace that and put people like that around me.

“You only live once, so why not try to take full advantage of everything?"

Harris did exactly that during his one season at the University of Tennessee. His average of 15.3 points per game ranked fifth among all freshmen in the six “major” conference and his 7.3 rebounds per outing rated sixth among all major conference freshmen. He was named a second-team Freshman All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association and was named second-team all-Southeastern Conference by the league’s coaches.

Harris knows that his family’s basketball background has helped him become the player he is today. And that applies beyond his immediate family.

"My cousin, Channing Frye, is in the NBA (with the Phoenix Suns) and he has helped me,” Harris said.

Harris has also benefitted from training sessions with a couple of the game’s all-time greats in former University of Tennessee All-American and NBA All-Star Dale Ellis, who spent parts of three seasons with the Bucks; and Basketball Hall-of-Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin, who averaged 26.2 points per game and won four league scoring titles over a 13-year NBA career.

Harris is also grateful for the guidance and support he has received from his Bucks teammates.

“All of the guys on my team have embraced me and looked after me like I'm their little brother,” Harris said. “They haven't done anything too crazy (as far as rookie treatment). They've taken it pretty easy on me."

Harris doesn’t seem overwhelmed by his NBA rookie experiences.

“I’m just continuing to learn the game and trying to get better each and every day,” he said. “That's what I try to do."

Harris made his NBA debut Jan. 7, scoring four points in a 92-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He followed that up with a career-high 15 points and four rebounds in a 109-93 loss at Phoenix the next night and had back-to-back games of 12 and 14 points Jan. 16 and 17 against Philadelphia and Denver, respectively. He was averaging 6.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14.2 minutes through his first nine pro outings.

He hasn’t let his success get the better of him, though, and he believes bigger and better days are on his horizon.

“The first game I got to play in was pretty special,” Harris said. “I wouldn't consider any of the games I've had a breakout game. I think that's a good thing, because I believe I'm going to get better and better."

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