College basketball is unique. In the NBA one player , maybe two, can turn around a franchise on their own. In college basketball, it takes a team. A team dedicated to a program and a set way of doing things.
The best college basketball coaches, Billy Donovan included, find not necessarily the best basketball players across the country through recruiting, but they find the right players. Players that fit roles inside the system, players that want to buy into the program and will work towards a common goal with their teammates.
Sometimes, like with Will Yeguete, that transition is easy. Other times, like with Scottie Wilbekin, it takes a while to mature into and other times it simply doesn’t pan out.
The latter was the case with South Carolina transfer, Damontre Harris, who was dismissed from Florida and will seek to find his third college. Harris was eligible to play last season after transferring from South Carolina but did not receive a single minute of floor time after being suspended, dismissed from the team and eventually reinstated. It came down to Harris being unreliable and unwilling to meet the standards that Donovan asks of the players in his program, even after receiving multiple chances.
“Damontre is not a bad kid, he’s a good kid, but really undisciplined and unreliable in a lot of ways, and really selling me on the fact that he’s going to be that way,” Donovan said on Thursday. “And then what we basically did was not allow him to play, even though he was eligible to play, and I told him he had to earn his way back on the team, very similar to the way Scottie had to do it, it was really no different, Two different situations maybe discipline wise but it was the same situation where he had to earn his way back.”
Wilbekin’s discipline included moving back in with his parents and being forced to practice on his own, away from his teammates and fellow seniors during the offseason. While he was not able to play in games, Harris’ punishment doesn’t appear to be as near to as significant as Wilbekin’s was as he was still around the team in practice. Still, he couldn’t do the little things necessary of him to repair the relationship and trust with Donovan.
“This guy [Harris] was in practice, he was used on the scout team and the things we were talking about is like going to class, being on time, being in the weight room, lifting, showing up to practice, those kind of things,” Donovan said. “Basically we evaluated him over that two-and-a-half, three months over that second semester and clearly nothing had changed at all.”
Donovan continued on to say that he was scheduled to meet with Harris about his future plans but Harris did not even show up to the meeting.
Despite the departure, Donovan does not hold any ill will towards the player. Donovan repeatedly stated that he doesn’t believe Harris is a bad person, just a young man in need of some maturing and guidance.
“He’s not a bad kid,” Donovan repeated. “He’s just not responsible enough to do the things that we need to do every single day and I think I would be doing him a disservice as a coach to push him through the system and just try to keep him eligible and get him to the floor and just have him go out there and play because I don’t believe you can win like that.”
Donovan said that while he has only spoken to Harris through text messaging (one of Florida’s assistant coaches has been in more consistent contact with Harris) he supports the decision and would do anything he could do to help out in the process.