Tobias Harris runs camp that goes beyond basketball

Tobias Harris, NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks,

Tobias Harris, NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks, talks to youngsters attending his basketball camp at Half Hollow Hills East High School. (June 27, 2012) (Credit: James Escher)

"School of Business." Odd name for a summer basketball camp run by a big-name former Long Island high school star who just completed his rookie season in the NBA.

But former Half Hollow Hills West standout Tobias Harris wants to make sure the 40-plus kids who attended his camp two weeks ago or those who will attend his next one Aug. 20-24 learn more than just jump shots, dribble-drives and post moves. "Just trying to have the kids take care of business -- work hard, have fun, go to class, do all the right things, stay on the right path," said Harris, the 6-8 Bucks small forward who travels from workouts in Milwaukee to Long Island to run the Tobias Harris School of Business Basketball Camp at Half Hollow Hills East.

It has evolved in its second year into a family business. The staff includes his father, Torrel; his mother, Lisa; brothers Tyler, Terry and T.J., and sister Tesia. Youngest sister Tori is a camper.

The camp name evolved from Tobias Harris' moniker during his one season at Tennessee (2010-11). "My nickname was 'All Business' because I was so serious. I didn't smile much then but I'm always smiling now," said Harris, who signed a reported two-year, $3.03-million deal with the Bucks after being drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 19th pick of the first round in the 2011 NBA draft and traded to Milwaukee.

"What I try to preach to the kids is to stay away from the negative influences in their lives," Harris said. "Stay away from drugs and other things that may tempt them because of peer pressure. That's important. This is a basketball camp, but as a role model and as a professional athlete, if I explain that stuff to the kids, it hits them harder than when it comes from a regular teacher."

Life lessons are valuable, and shooting baskets with a pro is a thrill for the kids, who range in age from 10 to 16. But what most of them really want to know is what it was like to play against LeBron James.

"I get asked that the most," Harris said. "As someone that watched him in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades -- and went to his summer camp in Ohio -- it was a lot of fun to just play against someone you admired."

Harris logged a total of five minutes in two games against the NBA champion Miami Heat. "He's just a great player. Very physical, very strong, very fast," he said of James, the reigning league and playoff MVP. "It was fun to guard him, but I was only matched up with him a couple of times. It wasn't a long moment."

Harris hopes that's not the case next season. His goal is to start at small forward for Milwaukee after a rookie year in which he averaged 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 11.4 minutes.

"There were definitely some ups and downs," Harris said. "I got taught a lot and I learned a lot. Being in the NBA is somewhat of a waiting game. It takes patience and it takes time. You've got to learn your role. I'm looking to make huge strides with the Bucks in my second year and fill a bigger role."

It's all about adjusting to new scenarios for Tyler Harris, too. He shot past his brother in height, measuring 6-9, but played only sparingly last season as a freshman at North Carolina State, a surprise Sweet 16 team. So Tyler decided to transfer to Providence, which had recruited him out of high school. He teamed with Tobias at Hills West as a junior but played his senior year at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark.

"I just wasn't getting much playing time and I thought it wouldn't be a good situation for me in the long run," said Tyler, who must sit out this season as a transfer but can practice with the Friars and will be eligible for the 2013-14 season. "This is going to be a great time for me to work on my game. It will make me more hungry for the year I come back to play."

Despite scoring only 35 points in 19 games with the Wolfpack, Tyler believes his game is diverse and suited for the Big East, and eventually the NBA. "You can use me with a lot of different matchups," he said confidently. "Smaller guys I can post up. Bigger guys I can take off the dribble. And I'm still a great shooter. It's a nightmare matchup for anyone who has to guard me."

Tyler said he frequently talked by phone with Tobias last season. Reluctant to share details of those brotherly chats, he said, "Tobias told me some little things you need to know to play in the NBA."

He hopes to apply that advice. "I think my game has gone to another level,'' he said. "I feel like soon I'll become a pro. If I continue to do what I've been doing, I'll be in the same situation as my brother."

If that happens, there could be a summer basketball camp on Long Island with this dynamite name: T 'n' T School of Business.

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