Small forward Tobias Harris is projected to go in Round 1 and shooting guard Scotty Hopson in Round 2 when the 2011 draft is held this evening in New York City.
First-year Tennessee head man Cuonzo Martin never got to coach either player but did put them through some drills in April individual workouts. Martin, an NBA player from 1995-97, believes both young men have pro potential.
Harris, a 6-7, 226-pounder, lacks dazzling athleticism but exhibited tremendous dedication, focus and basketball intelligence as a freshman last season, finishing second on the team in both points (15.3 per game) and rebounding (7.3 per game).
"Not everybody's like Tobias," Martin said recently. "There are probably a lot of guys who are gifted with more skill than Tobias, more talent than Tobias, but Tobias has the mental approach to be successful. You know guys like that."
Martin knows one guy like that, for sure, because they were college teammates at Purdue.
"I played with Glenn Robinson, and he'd be in the gym at 2 o'clock in the morning," Martin recalled. "He just couldn't live without it. It was his life. He was consumed with it. It's the same way with Tobias - NBA or bust. It's like those guys are built to do that. A lot of guys want the benefits (of a lucrative pro contract) but they don't want the work behind it."
"I think he'll be special. I think he'll be a 15-year NBA guy, barring injury."
Hopson is not such a sure thing. The 6-6, 200-pounder led Tennessee in scoring at 17.0 points per game as a junior last season but tends to be inconsistent and turnover-prone. Still, he has nice size, good athleticism and a decent 3-point stroke.
"If he hones in on a couple of areas the (NBA) teams have talked to him about, I think he'll be special," Martin said. "He's 6-6 and a legitimate 2 guard."
Whereas Harris reminds Martin of Glenn Robinson, Hopson reminds the Big Orange coach of another former Vol.
"I'm not saying he's (11-year NBA veteran) Allan Houston but he's that type of guy," Martin said of Hopson. "If he had Allan's makeup he'd be special because he has the body, has the frame and has the athleticism. Now he has to consistently put the work behind it."
Assuming both are selected tonight, Harris and Hopson will be the third and fourth Tennessee underclassmen taken in the history of the NBA Draft. The first two were Bernard King and Marcus Haislip.
King was chosen by the New Jersey Nets with Pick 7 in 1977. He played for them from '77-79, the Utah Jazz from '79-80, the Golden State Warriors from '80-82, the New York Knicks from '82-87, the Washington Bullets from '87-92 and New Jersey again from '92-93.
King averaged 24.2 points per game as a rookie and went on to play 14 seasons. A four-time NBA all-star, he was a two-time first-team All-NBA honoree. He was tabbed NBA Most Valuable Player in 1984 by The Sporting News. King was the league's scoring champ in 1985 at 32.9 points per game. He posted a career-high 60 points for the Knicks in a 1984 game vs. the Nets and retired with 19,665 points, ranking 16th in NBA history. King averaged 22.5 points per game for his pro career and was nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame but not elected.
Haislip went to the Milwaukee Bucks with Pick 13 in 2002. He played for the Bucks from 2002-05 and the Indianapolis Pacers from '04-05, then made a brief comeback with the San Antonio Spurs in 2009-10.
All told, Haislip played in 89 NBA games with eight starts. His career averages included 9.6 minutes, 3.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. He continues playing pro ball overseas.
Tennessee has produced seven first-round NBA Draft picks in program history. Seven-footer Tom Boerwinkle was the first, going to the Chicago Bulls with Pick 4 in 1968. King (Pick 7) and Ernie Grunfeld (Pick 11) were chosen in 1977 - the only time the Vols had two first-rounders in a single draft. Reggie Johnson was Pick 15 in 1980 and Dale Ellis Pick 9 in 1983. Allan Houston was Pick 11 in 1993 and Haislip Pick 13 in '02.
Tennessee has had two players taken in the same draft seven times previously. Red Robbins (Round 6) and Howard Bayne (Round 15) were chosen in 1966, Billy Hann (Round 4) and Bill Justus (Round 10) in 1969, Don Johnson (Round 5) and Jimmy England (Round 6) in 1971, Dan Federman (Round 5) and Willie Burton (Round 6) in 1984, Tony White (Round 2) and Fred Jenkins (Round 6) in 1987, Dyron Nix (Round 2) and Doug Roth (Round 2) in 1989, then Haislip (Round 1) and Vincent Yarbrough (Round 2) in 2002.
The Vols have had three players selected in the same year on two occasions - long before the draft was shortened to two rounds. Art Burris (Round 3), Ed Jones (Round 7) and Ed Montgomery (Round 12) were picked in 1950. King (Round 1), Grunfeld (Round 1) and Mike Jackson (Round 7) were pegged in 1977.