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December 21, 2013

Florida dismisses troubled player



It comes as no surprise but it is now official. Damontre Harris has been dismissed from Florida's basketball team, the school announced Saturday morning. He has been permitted to transfer without any restrictions on his destination.

The 6-foot-10 forward and center who transferred from South Carolina in the summer of 2012 never played a game for the Gators. He sat out the 2012-2013 by NCAA protocol and was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules to start the 2013-2014 season.

It was soon clear that suspension was more than a simple ban from game action. Florida coach Billy Donovan announced last month that Harris had not practiced with the team or been permitted in UF's basketball facility since the start of the season. Though he never directly addressed the reason for Harris' suspension, Donovan has hinted it has to do with not attending school as well as not answering the phone or communicating with coaches.

"We tried to help him off the court and help him with some of the challenges he was dealing with," Donovan told the school website Saturday. "But there was never this reciprocation of wanting to be helped or wanting to do the things necessary."

The dismissal comes five days after Donovan made it fairly clear Harris would never play for the Gators. He said Harris had shown no signs of wanting to do the things necessary to come back to the team.

While sitting out the 2012-2013 season, Harris tore his labrum and later made news when he was arrested after failing to appear in court for a traffic violation.

"I think he realizes that a big opportunity for him is now gone," Donovan said. "The thing I tried to get across to him, if he has any aspirations of playing professional basketball there is not one team in this country or overseas that is going to tolerate this type of behavior, and I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't hold him accountable for these things."

Donovan had previously said he would not be able to sleep at night if he felt he was using players for the benefit of his team without preparing them in any way for the future.

"It may mean him getting to a place where he can play the game on his terms," Donovan said. "Someone may let him do that. Here, it's not our philosophy or belief."

Harris had been expected to be a major factor in Florida's frontcourt this year. His presence would have given the Gators five players 6-foot-8 or taller and a second center to complement and relieve Patric Young. The Gators will now move forward without him.

The departure really hampers Florida for the 2014-2015 season. Assuming freshman Chris Walker returns for his sophomore season, the Gators will have four scholarship frontcourt players on their roster. One of those players, Duke transfer Alex Murphy, will not be eligible to play until after the fall semester ends barring an NCAA waiver. Another is five-star freshman Devin Robinson.


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