Stoic standout

Stoic standout

Here's how Tennessee basketball fans can tell if Tobias Harris is really happy or really angry: His expression almost changes.

Harris, the 6-9 freshman from Dix Hills, N.Y., made clear in Wednesday's 91-42 exhibition blowout of Brevard College why Scout.com rated him the No. 1 power forward prospect in America last winter. He showed his skills around the basket by hitting 6 of 8 shots. He showed his touch by making 4 of 5 foul shots. He showed his toughness by grabbing 5 rebounds. He showed his versatility by dishing out 2 assists and making a steal.

He showed everything, it seems, except emotion.

"You don't know if he's mad or happy," teammate Scotty Hopson said of Harris. "You might see a little crack of a smile but that guy's pretty well (blank) on his face."

Tobias Harris may not have been smiling during Wednesday night's game but head coach Bruce Pearl was. What he saw from the heralded rookie pleased him but didn't surprise him.

"I thought Tobias was fairly representative of what we've been seeing (in practice)," Pearl said. "He's really unique as a freshman because he's such a mature kid, such a hard worker, so disciplined.

"He doesn't get rattled. He understands the game. He's a nice calming presence. He's got high expectations for himself. He wants to play better than that. He wants to show better than that.... Tobias doesn't look like a freshman, he doesn't carry himself like a freshman and he doesn't play like a freshman."

Maybe not, but Harris says he felt like a freshman early Wednesday evening. He noticed some jitters during pregame warm-ups.

"A little going through the layup line and stuff," he said. "But once I got out there playing and in the flow of the game I felt real comfortable."

He looked comfortable. In fact, he looked almost methodical ... like an android following a program contained in a micro-chip.

"Tobias is so smart for his age," Hopson said. "He does a lot of great things on the basketball floor. His offensive awareness is so high that he does a lot of great things."

Harris was unaware of any "great things" he did Wednesday night. He described his performance as "good," adding:

"It's a lot more physical out there. I thought I could've rebounded more. I think I could've shot the 3 maybe one or two more times. The first one I shot was in and out. I'll watch film and find out on the defensive end where I need to be better.

"We got the win, so that's all that really matters."

Harris' first taste of college hoops was pretty much what he anticipated it would be.

"It was what I expected - the fans, the atmosphere and just playing college basketball," he said.

Harris was one of two freshmen to start Wednesday night - small forward Jordan McRae being the other. Tennessee also had new starters at center (transfer John Fields) and point guard (2009-10 backup Melvin Goins). Despite so many new faces, Harris believes the Vols are beginning to jell.

"I think we're starting to come together real well," he said. "The chemistry is getting there each and every day, so we can only move forward.

"Everybody pretty much knows their spots and their roles. We had some turnovers in the second half but those were basically unselfish turnovers - making the extra pass and it wasn't going through. You can only grow from those situations."

Tennessee wasn't expecting much of a test from Brevard and, sure enough, it didn't get much of a test. The Vols led 43-16 at halftime and coasted from there. Asked when he sensed Tennessee beginning to click, Harris replied:

"Pretty much throughout the whole game."

Then he almost cracked a smile. ALMOST.

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