Tobias Harris had played at Madison Square Garden before, but not as a professional.
The former Half Hollow Hills West star, now a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks, got an NBA-style welcome home the first time he touched the ball against the Knicks on Friday night.
Harris went up for a layup early in the second quarter and was met by the Knicks' Bill Walker. First, Walker smacked Harris in the face with his left hand. Then, with both still in midair, Walker caught Harris in the face again, this time with his right forearm.
Harris missed the shot and both free throws. His only basket of the night was a putback a few minutes later as he finished with two points and one rebound in 7:39 in the Bucks' 100-86 win over the Knicks.
Harris, who doesn't turn 20 until July, was the 19th pick in the NBA draft. He was chosen by the Bobcats and immediately traded to the Bucks, for whom he was averaging 8.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 16.9 minutes before Friday. He reached double figures in points in three of his first seven games.
"We're high on him," coach Scott Skiles said. "We think he has a lot of potential. He's just learning. He's trying to learn our defensive schemes, so he's getting taken advantage some by some veteran guys. But he's got all the tools. Offensively, he's a pretty well-rounded player right now, but obviously because of his age, we think he's going to get a lot better."
The 6-8 forward was inactive for the first six games of the season after getting felled by dehydration during training camp. Harris spent two nights in the hospital in December.
"Still working myself back into the best of shape," he said. "But it's good to just be out there and playing."
He got to play Friday night in front of his family and friends at the Garden, just as he did in November 2010 when his college team, Tennessee, won the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. Harris scored 15 in each of those games in his only NCAA season.
"It's exciting to be back home, but to me, it's another game," Harris said. "Another opportunity for us as a team to get better, get on a roll, more importantly. That's what I'm focused on."
Said Skiles: "So far, he's appeared to be much more mature than his age would indicate. But I would also be surprised if he wasn't feeling some butterflies."
If he was, at least he knows he'll have another chance for home cooking this season. The Bucks will visit the Knicks again March 26, at which point Harris will be close to completing his first NBA season under Skiles' watchful and understanding eye.
"The fact that he missed so much and now there's so limited practice time, we're watching him during the games," Skiles said. "Sometimes that can be really unfair to a rookie, to be evaluated under game conditions when you haven't had sort of the foundation built up. But he's had some really good moments so far. He's shown plenty of glimpses of ultimately what kind of player he can be."