Just over one month after being dismissed from the program due to his own actions, Florida Gators redshirt junior center Damontre Harris appears to be taking the first steps towards working his way back in head coach Billy Donovan’s good graces.
“How he got to the point that he wanted to come back, I don’t know,” said Donovan on Monday, “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 has been positive.”
A major reason why Florida was advertised to have one of the deepest frontcourts in the nation heading into the 2013-14 season, Harris has yet to step foot on the floor for the Gators and will not be doing so any time soon.
He began the season by serving a short suspension while dealing with a minor injury and never worked his way back, failing to meet requirements (like working out, practicing, being a reliable teammate) and obligations as simple as maintaining an open line of communication with the coaching staff.
Donovan announced the player’s dismissal on Dec. 21, releasing him to any school of his choosing, but Harris a few weeks later begged for an opportunity to re-enroll at UF and rejoin the team in some capacity.
His coach granted him the chance with one important caveat – Harris had to accept that there was there was no chance he would play this season.
“I think it would, just to me as a coach, I think it would completely devalue what our core values are here in terms of what we are trying to do each and every day,” said Donovan when asked if he considered allowing Harris to play in the spring. “He had every opportunity back in November to do those things and he elected not to. …
“We have too many guys like Patric Young and [Will] Yeguete and [Casey] Prather and those guys who have been committed for years, really working and doing the right things. And for us to all the sudden inject him back in there because he may be able to help our team? We’ve done fine without him. He’ll have to work to get better and improve, but no, we’re not going to play him this year.”
Though Harris will not be wearing his game uniform, he is donning logo-adorned gym clothes in the locker room and practice gear every day as a member of Florida’s scout team. Neither the player nor Donovan could have expected that would be the case one month ago.
“He’s doing everything else everybody else is doing, except he is not on the bench during games,” Donovan explained.
Harris is contributing for the Gators the best way he possibly can be given his current position, serving as difficult opposition for Young, Yeguete, Prather and the rest of Florida’s frontcourt as they prepare for what is sure to be a bevy of hard-fought contests heading into and during the postseason.
“He’s got an opportunity to salvage,” Donovan said. “It’s disappointing to me a guy that sat out an entire year to jeopardize himself like that in terms of his behavior.”
It may not be what Harris envisioned for himself when he transferred from South Carolina two offseasons ago…but at least it’s a start.
Photo Credit: Associated Press