By Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel
St. Francis – Flash back one year to the first week of practice, and Bucks rookie Tobias Harris was headed to the hospital because of dehydration and a blood disorder.
Now entering his second NBA season, the 20-year-old Harris is taking everything in stride.
He has the benefit of a full NBA summer league, where he played a starring role for the Bucks team. And he has worked closely throughout the off-season with the Bucks coaching staff, particularly with Bill Peterson and Anthony Goldwire.
Harris has made enough progress to be in the running for the Bucks’ starting small forward position. With Luc Richard Mbah a Moute still recovering from off-season knee surgery, the Bucks plan to go with a three-man rotation involving Harris, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels.
“Just to be in this position now, to be able to go through training camp instead of being in a hospital bed, is a good feeling,” Harris said after the Bucks’ practice session Wednesday morning.
“I’ve got to keep getting better on defense and getting better with my jumper. I’ve just got to keep working on everything and learn from all the coaches that are here, get a grasp of everything that we’re doing.”
Harris was just 18 when the Bucks drafted him in 2011, following his freshman year at Tennessee. He turned 19 a few weeks later but did not have the benefit of summer league as a rookie. Then came his early setback in training camp.
“The fact he can even stay on the floor so far is great,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said, thinking back one year. “Not that he was in terrible shape when he got here last year, but no rookie knows what to expect. All of a sudden the lockout is over and you show up and then boom, it hit him in the face and he got dehydrated and was set back for quite a while, obviously.
“Pretty much he’s just taking it in stride right now. He’s been going two-a-days for most of the month of September. He looks good.”
Harris and rookie John Henson were two of the stars in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July, giving them a boost heading into training camp.
“The benefit of rookie league is you get to play five games,” Skiles said. “A guy like him can play a bunch of minutes and sort of begin to feel really good about himself. He worked really hard leading up to that. He hasn’t taken much time off since the season was over.
“He’s got definite areas he’s trying to work on. He is a 3 man (small forward) and 3 men generally are very good with the ball. He’s trying to work on that. We know he can post people up and he’s got a good face-up shot. But being able to put the ball down on the perimeter, go by somebody and make a decision, kick it to somebody else, he’s getting better at.”
Harris said he came to camp last year “trying to be a starter” but actually he had little chance of that happening.
Now it’s more than a pipe-dream.
“Last year so much is thrown at you, being a rookie,” Harris said.
At 6-8 and 235 pounds, Harris is a bigger body at small forward, which can be an asset.
“With my size and strength, I’m able to go inside and go outside and just bring a lot of energy to the table,” Harris said.
The Bucks held a non-contact session Wednesday morning and will have a contact practice in the afternoon. They will practice again Thursday morning before the open scrimmage scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.