Damontre Harris pushed the envelope one time too many. According to several sources, Harris’ Florida basketball career has been terminated before it actually began. Gator Country has been told that Harris, a South Carolina transfer who sat out last season after two years in Columbia, and Billy Donovan came to a parting of the ways over the weekend.
Harris, a 6-10, 228-pound redshirt junior center from Fayetteville, North Carolina, transferred to Florida after two seasons at South Carolina. After sitting out last season, Harris was expected to be a major contributor on a strong top to bottom Florida roster, but he ran into offseason difficulties. Suspended along with Dorian Finney-Smith for unnamed offseason violations, Harris never completed the requirements to end the suspension. Finney-Smith was back in action for Florida’s third regular season game with Arkansas-Little Rock while Harris remained on suspension.
Donovan addressed the Harris situation a couple of weeks ago, admitting his frustration with the big man.
“At a certain point, he’s got to want to say this is what I want and this is what I’m prepared to do,” Donovan said. “He has not done that. He has said this is what I’d like. I want to play on the team. Well, this is what you have to do. What he wants and what he has to do are not matching up. I’m now at a crossroads in the dilemma. Does he want to play? Does he not want to play? It’s easy to say that, but there’s going to be some things he’s doing to have to go through to get back on our team. He’s not going to just come in here and say, ‘I want back on the team.’ Great, come on down to practice, we’ll throw you on and give you a uniform. He has got a lot of work to do.”
Donovan said that teammates had tried to reach out to Harris but without any success.
“I think our guys like Damontre and want to help Damontre, but they’d also like to see Damontre help Damontre,” Donovan said. “That, I think, is what’s so difficult as a coach. When you have all the resources here at Florida to really help someone in every possible area — on the court, off the court, academically, weight room, film — and you’re not taking advantage of it, at some point he’s the one responsible.”
With Harris, the Gators would have had a 6-10 rejecter to back up senior Patric Young. Without Harris, the Gators are in desperate need for the NCAA to hurry up with Clearinghouse approval for McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker, a 6-10, 220-pounder who will have to be in the rotation at both center and power forward as soon as he is eligible.
Walker is expected to get clearance to begin practicing with the Gators when final exams end next week, but he could serve a 2-3 game suspension for an unofficial visit to Kansas that was paid for by Matt Ramker, former director of the Florida Rams, who has gotten a show cause and a five-year ban from the NCAA. Walker played AAU ball for Ramker.
Until Walker is eligible, the Gators’ front court rotation will be Young (6-9), Will Yeguete (6-8), Finney-Smith (6-8) and Casey Prather (6-6).
The 12th-ranked Gators (6-2) will face #7 Kansas Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.