Reports: Gators, Harris part ways

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.

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. Donovan categorically denied that they parted ways and that Harris is permanently dismissed after practice on Monday? What’s the deal Gator Country? Couldnt wait a couple hours to ask Coach yourself before taking a dump on Harris? Feel like retracting this story, or are you guys waiting to be specifically called out for your “report” during a press conference, a la the Bostwick fiasco in August?

    • No, Billy didn’t categorically deny anything.

      He said, “Damontre and I haven’t met in two weeks. Obviously he’s off the team as it related to practicing and participating in games and those kind of things but Damontre and I have not met. I saw Damontre on Thanksgiving.”

      Then he further said, “Nothing has changed in terms of what he needs to do. Right now his main focus is continuing to finish up school. These guys are basically getting started with final exams and those kind of things. That’s where he’s at. But he and I have not spoken.”

      Nothing has changed. He was off the team two weeks ago and is off the team now. There was no categorical denial of anything.

      All we did was REPORT that multiple people who are close to Harris said that he and Billy Donovan parted ways. And I saw Billy yesterday at the press conference. There were no problems. If there had been, he would have said so. He and I have known each other way too long so that if there is a problem, he’s got my phone number or would have called me out. He didn’t.