Center Harris mulls surgery


Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson (2) shoots against former South Carolina forward Damontre Harris, now with the Gators, in the first half of a game on Feb. 22 in Nashville, Tenn. (The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has had success of late recruiting big-name transfers to campus.

But Donovan received some bad news about one of those transfers this week.

Florida junior center Damontre Harris, a South Carolina transfer, suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum in practice. Donovan said Harris is mulling over whether to have surgery, which would sideline him until March.

“The concern is if he doesn't have surgery, the likelihood of (the shoulder) popping out again is pretty high,” Donovan said.

The 6-foot-10, 228-pound Harris was sitting out this season due to NCAA Division I transfer rules, but was allowed to practice.

“You are probably talking about him being out for four to six months (if he has surgery),” Donovan said. “It's unfortunate because he really could have utilized this time here to get better, just offensively, playing against Patric (Young), it was good for Patric, it was good for him. So that is a real significant loss for us in practice in my opinion because he was doing pretty well the first few days.”

At South Carolina last season, Harris was tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots at 2.3 per game. He was named to last season's All-SEC defensive team.

“He gave us size,” Donovan said. “It was great for Patric to go against a shot-blocker, so now with him being gone, it hurts his development and it hurts our team's development.”

Harris and Virginia Tech sophomore transfer Dorian Finney-Smith were two significant additions to UF's roster in the offseason. Finney-Smith, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward, started 30 of 33 games as a freshman at Virginia Tech last season, averaging 6.3 points and 7 rebounds. He recorded three double-doubles.

Donovan has added four transfers to UF's roster since 2008, a list that included Harris, Finney-Smith, Florida senior guard Mike Rosario (Rutgers, 2010) and former UF center Vernon Macklin (Georgetown, 2008).

“It's got to be a good fit,” Donovan said. “With all of these transfers that have come in, there has been some tie whether it's been through recruiting them coming out of high school or a coach having a relationship with maybe the head high school coach.”

For example, Donovan said he had a strong relationship with former St. Anthony (N.J.) High School coach Bob Hurley, which led to Rosario's transfer. Macklin had a strong relationship with former UF assistant Rob Lanier when Lanier was an assistant at Virginia.

Donovan said he recruited both Harris and Finney-Smith out of high school.

“With the number of guys that do transfer every year, maybe not every transfer is a great fit or a great need for us, but those guys happen to be pretty good fits, pretty good needs,” Donovan said. “I think it's worked out well for us and them.”

Rosario was UF's leading scorer off the bench last season at 6.6 points per game. Macklin was a two-year starter at center for the Gators and helped lead the Gators to an Elite Eight appearance in 2011 before going in the second round of the NBA draft to the Detroit Pistons.

Macklin and Finney-Smith are from the same hometown (Portsmouth, Va.) and are close friends.

“He's like a big brother to me,” Finney-Smith said.

Finney-Smith said Macklin offered him advice on how to deal with sitting out games this season.

“He told me it was going to be tough, just keep working,” Finney-Smith said. “He told me not being able to play a year is going to really hurt my feelings.”

Finney-Smith said he plans to take a positive attitude into practice this season.

“My role in practice is to get the team better, go hard, don't take any plays off,” Finney-Smith said. “Try to get the mindset of since I'm not playing, try to get my teammates better, get them prepared for the game.”

FREE THROWS: Donovan said that junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin has had a strong first five days of practices. … Donovan is still concerned about the decision-making and turnovers of junior forward Casey Prather. “Assist-to-turnover ratios, we're charting every single practice, that is an area right now that, looking from last year to this year, has not improved and that's a problem,” Donovan said. “He's got to get better in that area.” … Donovan said that all four of UF's freshmen are working hard in practice, but none are Bradley Beal-type impact players. “I do think as it relates to a career and being here for a period of time, I think all four of those guys have chances to be very, very good players because of their work ethic and how hard they play and their eagerness to learn and get better,” Donovan said.

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