A lifelong journey of hard work and dedication has finally paid off for Dix Hills native Tobias Harris.
The University of Tennessee freshman forward was selected as the 19th overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Harris originally played his high school basketball at Long Island Lutheran, but he decided to transfer to Half Hollow Hills West. It was there that he established himself as a legitimate NBA prospect and one of the highest-touted athletes in Long Island sports history.
“He was one of the hardest working players that I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Mitaritonna, head basketball coach at Hills West. “He was internally driven to be the best player he could be.”
In 2010, Harris was named a McDonald’s All-American as well as Mr. New York Basketball. In his one season at Tennessee, the six-eight forward averaged 15.3 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Volunteers. He was honored with selections to the All-SEC Second Team and the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Harris is a versatile forward that shows a sound combination of strength and agility, which is rare for a player of his size. Though only 18 years old, he has displayed poise and maturity, leading to his high basketball IQ.
“He really knows the game, and I think that will be an advantage,” said Mitaritonna. “He has the basketball knowledge of a veteran.”
Current Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, who took over the team in place of Bruce Pearl in late March, never actually coached Harris in live-game action. However, Martin realized during spring workouts that Harris had the work ethic and focus to contribute at the next level.
“The thing that impressed me the most about him was his ability to listen and do the job,” said Martin. “I think he’ll be a very successful NBA player.”
Harris joins a Bucks’ squad that was the NBA’s lowest-scoring team last season. Paired with the explosive Brandon Jennings, Harris could provide much-needed athleticism in the paint.
Once he signs, Harris will become the fourth Long Island born player currently in the NBA. The others include San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (North Babylon), Indiana Pacers guard A.J. Price (Amityville) and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mike James (Amityville).
Mitaritonna and Martin agree that if Harris maintains the consistency he showed on the high school and college level, he’ll be just fine in the NBA.
“He’s done it at a high level, and he was born for it,” said Martin.