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. “