Finney-Smith reinstated; Wilbekin, Harris out

The good news for Billy Donovan is that Dorian Finney-Smith has done all the necessary steps to gain reinstatement to the Florida basketball team. The bad news is that Finney-Smith apparently has some sort of virus so it’s doubtful that he will be able to play Saturday when the Florida Gators (1-1) take on Arkansas-Little Rock at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (4:30 p.m., Fox Sports Florida TV).

Finney-Smith is one of three Gators who have missed the exhibition game and first two games of the season because of suspensions. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin and South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris are still serving their suspensions and Donovan won’t say exactly when they will return.


Finney-Smith is a Virginia Tech transfer who sat out last season. A legitimate five-position defender, Finney-Smith is expected to spend most of his time playing the high post or wing forward although he can fill in at center, shooting guard or even the point, even at 6-8. Donovan isn’t sure the cause of the illness so he can’t speculate exactly when Finney-Smith will make his Gator debut, just that it’s doubtful for Saturday.

If he was healthy and available I would play him tomorrow,” Donovan said. “He has done a very good job up until this time to take care of his responsibilities. I feel bad for him, just that he’s ill right now. We don’t know what it is. He’s got some kind of virus. He actually went to the doctor today to get some blood work done. We probably are not going to know exactly what it is until later this afternoon or tonight.”

Donovan said that Finney-Smith would not practice Friday but did not rule out the possibility that he could play Saturday if there is significant improvement in his condition.

I would anticipate that he isn’t going to play but he is going to be available for some reason if he had some sort of miraculous recovery and just felt better,” Donovan said.


Damontre Harris is a 6-10, 230-pound transfer from South Carolina who was a member of the SEC’s All-Defensive team two years ago. Donovan wouldn’t go into the reasons why Harris remains suspended but said that Harris has to be accountable and responsible of his actions going forward.

He’s not a bad kid but he’s not accountable at all and he’s not responsible enough to take care of the things he needs to take care of,” Donovan said. “I’ve always believed this: If I can’t expect someone to be accountable off the floor to do what they’re supposed to do in all areas of their life, how can I expect them to guard a pick and roll, remember a play, to go get a rebound and do those things if you can’t be accountable. It’s not like you turn it on and turn it off. Either you have the wherewithal to be accountable.”

Currently, Harris is not even practicing with the team while he gets his life in order and meets Donovan’s requirements for reinstatement to the team.

There are no short cuts to doing that right now,” Donovan said. “I’m not going to get into what he did or didn’t do or what he was irresponsible for but I’ve got to put my head on the pillow tonight knowing that I’m doing right by him and the program and the guys in the program. He needs to understand that there is a certain line that he has to toe and it’s not unreasonable and it’s not unrealistic and not something he’s incabable of doing. That’s where he’s at right now. When he ever gets back into practice, that’s going to be up to him in terms of him taking care of the things that are in front of him.”


Wilbekin made the SEC’s All-Defensive first team last year as a junior. He was suspended in late May, the second suspension of his career at Florida. Donovan said that this suspension might be something that Wilbekin looks back on later in life as a moment of positive change.

Scottie has been there every day,” Donovan said. “He’s been doing great. I’m really proud of him. It’s amazing. When Erik Murphy went through his difficulty during his sophomore year, I’m not so sure that without that experience he could have ended up being the player that he was. I think it was really great for him but I hated to see him go through it. The same thing can be said for Scottie. Scottie is a totally different person, a totally different leader, a totally different attitude. The strides he has made and no one has had a chance to see him play, but for me as a coach, it’s been very rewarding for me to see where he is. And I’m not so sure that if he didn’t go through some of the difficulties and challenges that he went through that he could even be the kind of person and player that he is today so there are some drastric, drastic improvements that I have seen him make.”

Donovan wouldn’t elaborate, but Wilbekin still has certain things he has to accomplish before Donovan reinstates him and allows him to play in games again.

There are still things in place that Scottie has to uphold his end of the bargain on and those things are not completed yet so I don’t want to throw out a time of when he could come back because if he does not do what he’s supposed to do and take care of his responsibilities there are going to be games that are going to be added on,” Donovan said.



ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (0-1): Will Neighbour (6-10, 225, SR); James White (6-8, 216, RSO); Leroy Isler (6-5, 204, SR); Josh Hagins (6-1, 175, SR); J.T. Thomas (6-1, 180, RJR)

FLORIDA (1-1): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 213, SR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, FR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 195, SO)

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.