Notebook: Harris practicing, but won't play this season
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2014 at 11:53 p.m.
The on again, off again saga of Florida junior center Damontre Harris has taken a positive turn.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said the 6-foot-10 Harris is back practicing with the team.
“He's on the scout team, so whomever we are playing against, he is going to be one of their frontcourt players,” Donovan said. “He's lifting weights. He's going through individual instruction.”
But Donovan reiterated that the South Carolina transfer will not play for the Gators this season. Even if Harris is in a good place physically and mentally come March, Donovan said he would not reconsider his punishment for undisclosed disciplinary issues that Harris incurred during the fall semester.
“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,” Donovan said. “He had every opportunity back in November to do those things and he elected not to.”
Those disciplinary issues caused Harris to briefly leave the Gators last Dec. 21. But after scouring the transfer market, Harris asked for another chance and enrolled at UF for the spring semester.
“He was going to move on and obviously we reached out,” Donovan said. “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.”
Frazier SEC player of the week
Sophomore Florida guard Michael Frazier earned SEC player of the week honors after averaging 17.5 points per game in wins over Alabama and Tennessee.
“It's a great honor, but it just shows that hard work pays off,” Frazier said. “(I just) continue to strive to get better each and every day, continue to focus on the team.”
Frazier shot 8 of 19 from 3-point range during that span. The 6-foot-4 guard from Tampa is second in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (45.6 percent) and tied with Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom for third in 3-pointers made (52).
Frazier is UF's third SEC player of the week, joining senior forward Casey Prather (Dec. 2) and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Dec. 16). Prather earned co-player of the week honors with Mississippi State guard Craig Sword.
Chris Walker update
Donovan did not offer a timetable of when or if freshman McDonald's All-American power forward Chris Walker will be cleared by the NCAA, but offered some hints that it could happen soon.
Walker has sat out 10 games since joining the Gators to practice on Dec. 14. He has not been cleared by the NCAA to play yet, presumably due to an unresolved impermissible benefits issue.
Donovan said he feels like Walker would be prepared to step into an SEC game if he was cleared this week.
“He's more prepared than he was a couple weeks ago,” Walker said. “I think the biggest adjustment he's made is just having a better feel for what we're doing defensively and offensively.”
Donovan also said that Walker has benefited from the strength training and nutrition program at UF. The 6-foot-10 Bonifay native has bulked up to 213 pounds from 203 pounds since arriving on campus.
But Donovan also tempered expectations for Walker, who is currently ranked 20th in ESPN.com's Chad Ford's list of NBA draft prospects for 2014.
“You have a highly explosive player and sometimes, when the guy's not playing, the legend of Chris Walker grows greater than who he really actually is,” Donovan said. “It's like, 'My God, this guy is going to end up being Kevin Garnett.' I mean, he's not that. And I think if anybody, whenever he gets able to play, if that's your expectation of Chris Walker, then you're going to be very, very disappointed because he's not that.
“And my biggest fear is for him is there's a level of anticipation or excitement whenever he gets cleared to play, but I hope that there is at least a level of understanding in terms of how much he's missed coming in.”