The prodigal returns: Harris back at UF

At the end of his post game press conference Wednesday night, Billy Donovan dropped a small bombshell when he announced that troubled Damontre Harris is back in school at the University of Florida and back on scholarship. Suspended for the first three games of the season, Harris went into a funk and would disappear for days at a time without communication with Donovan throughout the month of November and in December. When the semester ended, Donovan announced that Harris was no longer a part of the team and was free to transfer wherever he wanted.

That was then. This is now.

What changed? During the holidays when he went back home to Fayetteville, North Carolina, Harris thought things over, realized the mistake that he made and got back in touch with Donovan. The decision was made to allow him back on the team but with stipulations – he won’t be allowed to play this season although he can practice with the team.

“He gets to practice,” Donovan said. “He knows exactly what he needs to do. This was all his decision of him kind of being pretty persistent with me over the holidays saying he feels like he’s made a huge mistake. He feels like Florida basketball is all he’s got and he really needs our help.”

It’s help that Donovan is ready to give the 6-10, 230-pound center who sat out last season after transferring from South Carolina. Donovan isn’t going to make the road back to the team easy, but it’s do-able.

And Donovan says Harris knows exactly what he has to do.

“He understands the criteria and the groundwork of what needs to be done,” Donovan said. “He understands what we expect out of him and he said he’s going to try to do those things to the best of his ability. As I said, he’s not playing this year and he’s aware of that. He’s going to try to earn his way back, kind of like Scottie had to do.”

Wilbekin was kicked off the team back in the early summer months and had to earn his way back on. He had a specific set of instructions before him and knew there were no shortcuts. He also faced a six-game suspension to start the season.

But Wilbekin weathered that storm and Donovan hopes that Harris will be able to do the same thing.

“It’s going to be a long road for him,” Donovan said. “Whether he can do it or not, we’ll see but he wants to give it a shot and I figured I could try to help him. He did have the opportunity to leave and go somewhere and potentially play right away.”

There was speculation that Harris would transfer to Division II Fayetteville State in his home town where he could have played without any problems since he was in good academic standing at UF, but after weighing all his options – some of them Division I – Harris contacted Donovan and asked for a second chance.

Although Donovan won’t allow Harris to play this season, the big man can help the Gators in practice.

“He wants to be here and he’s trying to work and get back in shape,” Donovan said. “I told him his main responsibility is to help our team moving forward but he will not play this year. “


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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.


  1. Im not sure how. I feel about this he was too selfish to not do the right thing. Before & left his team mates hanging. Do we really want to put all of those eggs in his basket & count him to not change his mind again thinking. I’m. 6″11 I can play somewhere And if we do. Go with the. Mindset of everyone. Deserves a chance. Then lets use him and cost him a year oh eligibility make. Him sit out till mod February, but if one of our injury prone guys goes down late n season as Will has the last 2 years. Lets give our Sr.s a chance to win. A ring if we need that big body for a couple of minutes. A game. Losing. A year of eligibility and only playing 4-7 minutes a game. For the last moth. Sounds like. A good punishment to me. That’s only if we need. Him and or to give our big guys a breather late in year getting ready for March. ?? Yeah not sure. How to. Feel. Would love to just say screw. Him to many of us would have killed for his size and. Opportunity .