Harris well-traveled as he narrows college choices

Tobias Harris, a rising senior, is considered one Tobias Harris, a rising senior, is considered one of the Island's top players. Photo Credit: Newsday/ Ana P. Gutierrez

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It was a rare timeout for Tobias Harris, whose traveling basketball road show had been in high gear since early June. The 6-8 forward, who turned 17 in July, had been on the go since early June, traveling to six states, playing against the best college prospects in the country and showing off his myriad skills to the top college coaches.

So what did he do on July 16, his second of five days home before yet another trip? He got up at 5 a.m. to run two miles with his siblings through the streets of his hometown of Dix Hills. Then he went to Half Hollow Hills West High School - where he'll play his senior year after transferring from Lutheran in April - for a casual evening workout with friends and family.

"I love it," Harris said of the fast-break pace that has taken him from Tennessee to Virginia to Arizona to Ohio to South Carolina to Florida this summer for the top camps and tournaments available to elite players. He'll conclude his summer tour in the Nike Elite 24 at Harlem's fabled Rucker Park on Aug. 22.

"I'm committed to the whole thing and I want to keep playing all summer,'' he said. "They were like business trips, but I have fun whenever I play basketball."

Harris has racked up more than just frequent-flier miles this summer. He has risen up the charts of national talent scouts, having trimmed 15 pounds to 210 and added inches to his vertical jump and quickness to his perimeter game. Most recruiting services have moved him into the top 20 among all prospects, and one ranked him in the top three among forwards. A Big East assistant coach told SNY.tv Harris is "the best offensive forward in the country. He can face up, he can post up, he can drive . . . He looks thin, quick and bouncy . . . He's the story of the summer."

That's why Harris, who led Lutheran to the state Federation title in March before transferring back to the school where he played as a sophomore, is on the wish list of many big-time schools. Among those in hot pursuit are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, UCLA and USC.

The slimmer, quicker Harris improved his post moves at Amar'e Stoudemire's Big Man Camp in Phoenix, impressed with his perimeter game at LeBron James' Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, and said he feels "more explosive" than he did when he weighed 225.

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"I can do a lot of different stuff now," Harris said. "Last year, coaches saw me as a '4' [power forward]. Now a lot of coaches want me to play the '3' [small forward] and be on the perimeter."

UConn coach Jim Calhoun traveled to watch Harris play soon after breaking several ribs in a bicycle mishap. Kentucky coach John Calipari jumped in quickly, and Notre Dame scored points because Harris enjoyed working with two former Irish players, former NBA forwards John Shumate and Orlando Woolridge, at two camps.

"It's very important that the head coach understands his game and has a plan," said Torrel Harris, Tobias' father, who has traveled with his son all summer and is a major influence in his life. "Wherever he goes, the coach will have to put the ball in Tobias' hands and let him create. And don't be sending your assistant to recruit him."

Torrel, a former college player and NBA player agent, isn't shy about promoting his son. "We're trying to get Tobias to the league," he said, referring to the NBA. "There's no shame in that. That's why playing time is so important ."

The Harrises plan to narrow their college list to five by the end of August, make their official school visits in the fall and announce their decision in November, before the start of Tobias' senior season. "It's nice to have a lot of coaches calling," Tobias said, "but it will be hard to pick only one school."

Harris is blazing a trail for his brother Tyler, 15, a 6-7 junior at Hills West who already is drawing major-college interest, and younger brother Terry, 13, an eighth-grade star with designs on joining his brothers on the varsity next year. Older sister Tesia is a junior starter at the University of Delaware.

None of them was all that impressed that Tobias met James or Stoudemire.

"When I got home,'' a smiling Harris said, "they just asked me for some gear!"

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