Harris is a small forward for the Detroit Pistons and was the 19th pick overall in the 2011 draft. His ascension in the league has been steady but sure: After starting only 23 games combined in his �irst two seasons as a Milwaukee Buck and hitting about �ive points per game, the 6-foot 9-inch, 235-pound athlete has averaged mid-double-digits in scoring every year since, and has �irmly established himself as one of the premier defenders in the Eastern Conference. The stat-geeky hoops website Basketball Analytics once even called Harris “the NBA’S Most Underrated Player,” classifying the 24-year-old as a modern-day “Versatile Forward” along with the likes of Leonard and Lebron James.
Now entering his sixth season as a pro and his �irst full season with the Pistons, Harris is determined to take his game to the next level by covering all the bases: basketball skills development, intensive strength training and cleanas-a-whistle nutrition. Fortunately, he’ll have some help.
Gone are the days when basketball players avoided the weight room, leaving the iron work to football players and bodybuilders. Gone also are the spindly, sub-200-pound physiques of the NBA small forwards of the 1970s and ’80s. Harris’ long, muscular frame is now the league norm and lifting isn’t just something he does because he has to.
“I am a workout guy,” states Harris. “I’m big into squats and lower-body strength in general. I do bench presses, jerks, powerlifting … I like it all. It gives me an advantage and I like to put in a lot of extra work.”
Harris’ weight training architect is Anthony Harvey, CSCS, the Detroit Pistons head strength and conditioning coach. Harvey was on staff for the Magic while Harris was playing in Orlando, so he is intimately familiar with his pupil and knows he’ll do anything and everything it takes to excel.
“Tobias is one of my favorite athletes to work with,” says Harvey. “He’s very meticulous and up front about how he wants to train and he’s a very hard worker. There are actually times when I need him to take a break and he wants to do more.”
Currently the main focus with Harris’ training is increasing leg strength and mobility and grooming him to play with a lower center of gravity, which allows him more leverage to move his opponent, according to Harvey. Sounds pretty simple, but a lot goes into achieving those goals, especially considering the NBA’S 82-game schedule and 48-minute games.
Harris’ offseason schedule is a complex program of strength, conditioning and flexibility sessions that include everything from traditional barbell moves to Olympic lifting to functional strength to yoga. He also does several weekly workouts on the track and the basketball court to enhance speed and endurance, and spends at least one day in the pool swimming for recovery and conditioning.
“Just seeing how he goes about his offseason training is remarkable,” says Harvey. “He’ll have his brother record [his lifts] and send them to me so I can critique them. You don’t have to hold his hand. You show him once, you show him twice, he gets it and it becomes a part of his routine.”
that’s one of the biggest things when it comes to changing the body and gaining strength — putting the right foods in your body.”
Some say Harris has a nutritional maturity beyond his years, and most people don’t start addressing their diets until they’re forced to do so in their 40s or 50s. Case in point, Tobias’ dad (and agent) Torrel Harris: “I’m 58 years old and I’m just now learning about nutrition and what to eat,” says the elder Harris. “And I’m learning it all from my son. The thing about Tobias is, anything he can do to be a perfectionist, he’s going to do it.”
Like a good perfectionist, Harris has enlisted one of the top professional chefs around to design his day-to-day fare: Sam Miller, owner of Progressive Wellness LLC in New York City. Though a vegan himself, Miller includes chicken, turkey, �ish and occasionally red meat in Harris’ program, but the main staples of his meals are eggs, avocados and an endless assortment of fruits, vegetables, seeds and superfoods. Everything’s natural, everything’s organic and everything is intentionally rationed in the optimal amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.