Jon Harris is an optimist.

Don't try telling one of Tennessee's newest assistant basketball coaches that the program he just joined is in disarray.

NCAA issues? They'll leave that up to UT's administration.

A questionable roster for the 2011-2012 season? Head coach Cuonzo Martin and staff can handle that.

The potential departures of standouts Scottie Hopson and Tobias Harris to the NBA? They'll deal with that too.

"The program definitely has a good foundation with the talent we have returning," said Harris, a former Marquette standout. "You have pieces in place to be successful and that's an advantage going forward."

Following a graduate assistant position at his alma mater, Harris has been on the rise. He spent five seasons at Wisconsin-Green Bay then the last three on Martin's staff at Missouri State. And as for his coaching style, Harris doesn't hide where his attitude originates from.

"I'm a high energy guy and consider myself a hard worker, with a lot of energy and passion," Harris said. "That's what I bring to the table."

He'd better be. From last season's squad, the Vols lost their point guard (Melvin Goins), two of their best big men (Brian Williams and John Fields), a spark off the bench (Steven Pearl) and a key role player (Josh Bone). And besides those departing seniors, the Vols are still waiting on Harris' and Hopson's NBA decision. Harris is currently working out with the Vols while Hopson seems intent to play professionally next season.

"I wouldn't say we're re-recruiting them, just trying to get to know them and vice versa," Harris said. "I think they (would) be great fits. All the guys seem like really great people and that's key with us. It's not about a top-50 guy, but just having good people because you don't have to worry about them getting in trouble away from basketball."

Trouble opened the door for Martin and crew. Bruce Pearl's NCAA issues led to his firing, inciting an intense debate among UT fans over whether or not the school should have stuck by him through a scheduled NCAA hearing in June.

"I know Bruce Pearl was a very likeable figure here in the community and I'm very familiar with him because when I was at Green Bay he was at (Wisconsin) Milwaukee," Harris said. "I recruited against him and I'm familiar with his staff. From that standpoint we are going to be who we are...Give us the opportunity to get to know us, then (fans) will see the effort and energy our guys play with come next season."

Effort and energy is a constant mantra when speaking with Harris - especially with any incoming freshmen UT will bring in this summer and fall.

"We want to get up and down the floor - the year before last we lead our league in scoring at just over 72 points per game and the season that just finished we were second in the league," Harris said. "It's a very defensive minded approach and we expect our guys to defend and be aggressive. We want to be physical from that standpoint and be good rebounders."

Harris claims recruiting ties to St. Louis, Chicago, Indiana, Wisconsin and Southern Illinois. He'll need them all to rebuild a roster in transition. The Vols quickly released guard Kevin Ware from his letter of intent, signed point guard Wes Washpun, recently received a commitment from combo guard Josh Richardson and offered a scholarship to 2013 prospect Jabari Parker.

"We've had to hit the ground running from a recruiting standpoint," Harris said. "Our scholarship situation for how many we're going to have is up in the air. We're recruiting across the board in all positions to be honest. We want guys that can play the game and have a good IQ but be a really good person and have a foundation."

That's a given. Considering the last regime's demise, running a clean program is a must.

"No question that's one of the criteria that they were looking for in a new hire with coach Martin and our staff," Harris said. "Everything's going to be above par. We are going to be very transparent and won't do anything that will jeopardize the reputation of the university."

That's a start


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