Damontre Harris has returned to Gators, but no chance he plays this season
About a month after Damontre Harris left school intent on transferring and restarting his college basketball career elsewhere, Harris is back with the Gators and making solid progress toward redemption in coach Billy Donovan's mind.
Harris, a transfer from South Carolina, was expected to be an integral part of the Gators' squad this season. But personal issues led him to withdraw from team activities - and ultimately to his dismissal from the team in December.
But then Harris, who wasn't practicing in the fall, but did attend classes and remained in good academic standing, asked to return to the team.
Donovan granted his request under one condition: he can practice, but he will not play this season. And so far, that agreement is working out.
"He's in practice every day," Donovan said. "He's on the scout team, so whomever we are playing against, he is going to be one of their frontcourt players. He's lifting weights. He's going through individual instruction. He's not going to play this year. He's doing everything else everybody else is doing, except he is not on the bench during games. He is not going to play any games, but everything else he is doing right now. He's got an opportunity to salvage."
Donovan said in early November that he had given Harris multiple opportunities to make things right with the team - including counseling. But he said Harris continued to miss meetings, practices and other scheduled events and just didn't seem interested in team activities.
Harris could have chosen to transfer to a school where he could play immediately, but instead opted to return to the Gators.
"It's disappointing to me a guy that sat out an entire year (per NCAA transfer rules) to jeopardize himself like that in terms of his behavior," Donovan said. "Over the holidays, it was laid out pretty clear to him if he wanted to come back this is what he needed to do. In doing so he was going to lose a whole year basically, and he still wanted to do it. I gave him the opportunity and released him to anywhere he wanted to go. I gave him an opportunity to go play where he wanted to play, and I said if you're going to come back I'm not playing you, so you really have to think hard about do you want to transfer, have a year-and-a-half go NAIA and play right away? Those are decisions you have to make. How he got to the point that he wanted to come back I don't know, but he's at that point right now, and I think his behavior and what he has been doing at least up until this point since he's been back, since the break, has been positive."
Even if the Gators were to need Harris late in the season come tournament time, Donovan said he will not play, adding it wouldn't be fair or set a proper example for the players who have been with the team all along, doing the right things.