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Saturday December 21, 2013 Damontre Harris dismissed from team

Updated: 11:18am, December 21

Damontre SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida basketball career of Damontre Harris is over before it began.

Harris, the 6-foot-10 center/forward who transferred to UF from South Carolina two summers ago, was officially dismissed from the team Friday after meeting with Coach Billy Donovan.

The parting, Donovan told GatorZone.com, was an amiable one. Also a necessary one.

“He was never disrespectful as far as his attitude. He was a nice kid and never blamed anybody for what was happening,” Donovan said of Harris (pictured right during UF's media day in October). “We tried to help him off the court and help him with some of the challenges he was dealing with. But there was never this reciprocation of wanting to be helped or wanting to to do the things necessary.”

Harris will leave UF in good academic standing, after completing his fall semester work, and with a release to transfer anywhere that might take him. He may look for a school closer to his home in Fayetteville, N.C.

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

The Gators were banking on Harris to be a contributing player in their front-court rotation this season, but the relationship between Harris and the program went sideways just before the start of the season and never got back on track.

Harris was one of three players who began the season suspended for violating team rules. Two of them, sophomore transfer forward Dorian Finney-Smith and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, worked their way back into Donovan’s good graces. Harris did not.

“The things we were asking him to do weren’t anything out of the norm,” Donovan said. “But we’d go a week without hearing from him. He wouldn’t return our phone calls or text messages. His teammates didn’t know where he was.”

Around Thanksgiving, Harris reached out to Donovan, who agreed to meet with the player, but 10 days went by before he heard from him again.

“By then, we were at the end of the semester and I think he realized it was just too far gone,” Donovan said.

During his 2011-12 sophomore season at South Carolina, Harris averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game for the Gamecocks and was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Defensive team. But Harris opted to leave USC after a coaching change and transferred to UF.

Along with Finney-Smith, Harris sat out the entire ’12-13 season under NCAA transfer rules, but was allowed to practice -- when healthy. Harris suffered a torn labrum a week into preseason practices and was sidelined for nearly five months. When he returned in March, Harris sustained an ankle injury. All told, he may have been healthy for 10 practices last year.

When the Gators opened practice this season, Harris missed more time due to sore hamstrings and was relegated to the training table and strength and conditioning sessions. Then, without warning, eventually stopped coming to the practice facility.

It was downhill from there.

“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.”

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