Notebook: Harris leaving Gators
Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
SUNRISE — After weeks of speculation about his status, junior center Damontre Harris is no longer a Gator.
Florida announced Saturday that Harris is leaving the team. The 6-foot-10 South Carolina transfer finished the fall semester in good academic standing and is free to transfer wherever he wants.
Harris leaves UF having never played a game for the Gators after being suspended all season for undisclosed disciplinary issues. Reached briefly on the phone Saturday night, Harris declined comment when asked why he was transferring.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said following Saturday’s 66-49 win over Fresno State that there were no red flags to suggest Harris’ disciplinary problems this season. Harris sat out all of last season after transferring from South Carolina and was able to practice with the Gators, but missed most of UF’s practices after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
“I think his behavior this year is totally foreign to what we had seen in the past,” Donovan said. “Maybe some of it has to do with the fact that he didn’t have to practice a lot. He probably practiced maybe 10 or 12 times last year.”
Harris missed multiple practices during the preseason and was practicing separately from the Gators on-and-off in November and December.
“He is a good kid,” Donovan said. “He’s not a bad kid. We’ve gone above and beyond to try to help. But it was one of those things where he didn’t want any help and I’m sad the way that it worked out because he is a good kid. I hope he kind of finds a home somewhere and get himself redirected.
“The things I think we were asking him to do were not unreasonable things … my point of reference in this is if a guy was acting like this in a job, would he be fired. And the answer is yes.”
Younger Murphy different
Alex Murphy officially cleared his paperwork to enroll at UF in the second semester. He will start practicing with the Gators in early January.
Donovan said on and off the court the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Duke transfer is different from his older brother, former Gator and current Chicago Bulls forward Erik Murphy.
“Alex is very outgoing, very sociable,” Donovan said. “I thought once Erik started to become a junior, he was a lot more verbal, a lot more outgoing. Their games are totally different. Erik is a power forward/center that has that really unique characteristic of being able to stretch the defense with the way he shoots the ball. Alex, he’s more of a guy that can put the ball on the floor, he can clear it off the dribble. He’s probably a little bit more fluid offensively. I don’t know right now if he shoots the ball at the same level that Erik shoots it at.”
Donovan said Murphy will provide another big body in practice while learning the system. Murphy is applying for a waiver from the NCAA to play next fall, but won’t be able to play immediately at UF due to transfer rules.
In discussing Murphy, Donovan also dropped a hint about freshman forward Chris Walker making his debut soon. Walker has yet to be cleared by the NCAA but is practicing with the Gators.
“Alex can come in, Alex can play, he doesn’t have the pressure that Chris Walker does,” Donovan said. “Chris Walker maybe soon is hopefully able to get back on the floor. He’s got the pressure of wanting to play. Alex doesn’t have that.”
Young off the bench
Senior center Patric Young did not start for the Gators against Fresno State because he missed Friday’s practice with knee soreness.
“As a coach I always feel more comfortable with the guys that are out there practicing,” Donovan said. “It was nothing more than that. Patric is fine and he was able to play today and I thought he played very, very well.”
In 27 minutes off the bench, Young finished with eight points and nine rebounds. At 988 points, Young is 12 points shy of becoming the 50th player in UF history to score 1,000 or more points.
“Hopefully I can get it in my next game,” Young said. The Gators next play Dec. 29 at home against Savannah State.
In Young’s place, sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith made his first career start at UF. The 6-foot-8 Virginia Tech transfer finished with seven points, five rebounds and two assists.
Freshman point guard Kasey Hill (seven points, one assist) went 2-for-2 from 3-point range against Fresno State to improve to 30 percent (3-10) from beyond the arc this season. Donovan said Hill tweaked his ankle in the second half, but didn’t consider the injury serious. Hill played 15 minutes off the bench and was held out late in the second half for precautionary reasons. … DeVon Walker had an active game off the bench with four points, one assist and one blocked shot in 12 minutes. The sophomore swingman made his first 3-pointer since Nov. 21 against Middle Tennessee State.