"It kind of all fades away when you go to college," he said at UT's Pratt Pavilion practice facility earlier today. "Being out here, you realize that none of that stuff (high school accolades) really matters. You've just got to work hard and prove yourself out there when you play. That's what I'm going to try to do."
Harris averaged 29.2 points per game last winter as a senior at Half Hollow Hills West High in Dix Hills, N.Y. He was rated America's top power forward prospect and a 5-star recruit by Scout.com, which summarized his game in these words:
"High-major prospect since his sophomore season, Harris exploded as a rising senior. Got his body trimmed up and it opened up all sorts of aspects of his game. Good shooting touch, rebounds his position and will be a multi-position guy down the road. Brings versatility and competitiveness to the forward spot. Work ethic is exemplary."
Harris' skills are as impressive as his work ethic. He was having a spectacular outing in the McDonald's All-America Game March 31 - producing 13 points and 4 rebounds in 12 minutes - before breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. Now fully recovered, he is eager to launch his college career.
"I'm real healthy right now," he said. "I'm getting back in shape and I'm cleared to play. That's the big thing."
Many basketball analysts were surprised when a heralded New Yorker cast his lot with a Tennessee program that is not a tradition-rich basketball power. Harris admits that the decision was a taxing one.
"It was real difficult," he said. "You build a lot of relationships with all of the coaches and the players on the teams. Making the decision was hard but I tried to make the best one. I think I made the best decision. I KNOW I made the best decision."
That's because he has fallen in love with Tennessee since arriving on campus.
"I love it. It's been a great experience so far," he said. "I've been working hard and having a lot of fun."
Asked to describe his game, Harris paused thoughtfully before responding.
"A tall forward that can dribble, shoot and run the floor really well," he said. "I'm a hard worker who does things a lot of other guys don't want to do out there. I bring an attitude of hard work to the team and helping everybody work hard also."
There was no pause when Harris was asked his goal for this season.
"Win the national championship," he said. "I believe that we can. I tell a lot of people that we're going to win it all because I see how hard everybody's working. It's really getting pushed up a level by the coaches, so I know we can go far this year."