Freshman forward Tobias Harris enters this college season as one of the most hyped recruits, not only in the SEC, but also in the history of the Tennessee program.
He comes to UT with an impressive resume, including a five-star rating by nearly every recruiting service, a Gatorade Player of the Year award in the state of New York and a McDonald's All-American. But one label that is not readily applied to Harris is that of a regular guy.
On the court, in games or practice, Harris is one of the more vocal players. However, this is not the story for him away from basketball.
"I'm just a humble and quiet kid who likes to keep working and be the best that I can be," Harris said.
This unassuming demeanor away from basketball is something that junior guard Scotty Hopson also sees in Harris.
"He's just like any 18- or 19-year-old, he's a cool dude to be around," Hopson said. "I think two words to describe him are humble and hungry."
Harris enters this season with a lot of pressure to perform in the talent-laden Vols roster. In his first collegiate game, he notched 18 points to go along with five rebounds and one assist. Harris does not back down on dealing with the pressures of his own success but instead accepts and works towards making good on his potential.
"I just got to stay in the gym and keep working," Harris said. "I can't let that get to my head and get to me."
One outlet for Harris has been Hopson, who was in a similar situation three years ago, when he came to UT with nearly the same list of accomplishments.
"It's definitely helped to have someone to talk to," Harris said of Hopson. "He just tells me to stay focused."
While Harris strives for excellence on the court, away from the game he is just a regular college freshman. His favorite movie is "Hoop Dreams," and as for television shows, he prefers "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." When it comes to books, his favorite is "The Alchemist." His favorite music artist is Jay-Z. The NBA team that he roots for is the Los Angeles Lakers and says that when he watches one of their games his eyes are glued to star Kobe Bryant.
When Harris is not at practice, he likes to spend time in the gym, working on getting stronger. And when he is back at home in New York, he said his favorite thing to do is to be around his family. He also lists his family as an inspiration for him, singling out his father especially.
Harris is a native of Dix Hills, N.Y., and says that he came so far south to UT because of coach Bruce Pearl and the fact that they both share a drive to win.
And like most freshman, Harris does not yet know what he wants to major in, but his favorite course so far is sociology.
Harris feels a lot of pressure to have the same success in college basketball as he did in high school. In fact, his own teammates expect the same of him. Hopson in particular believes he has the potential to make not only the All-SEC Freshman team, but also the Freshmen All-American team as well.
But Harris will continue to deal with expectations the same way he has so far. He plans to work as hard as anybody to be the best. And with him playing the focal "point-forward" position for the Vols — a positioned manned recently by the likes of J.P. Smith, Tyler Smith and Dane Bradshaw — his ability to perform at his previous level will greatly impact the team's success.
"For Tobias, the sky is the limit," Hopson said. "If he's progressing, he'll do more than well."