While much of the focus has centered around the recruitment of prized 2012 forward Anthony Bennett, Florida received a surprise visit from another big man this week.
The surprise was because it was a player from within the conference looking to transfer. According to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman, South Carolina forward Damontre Harris visited the UF campus on Wednesday.
Harris also plans to visit Kansas and hasn’t ruled out returning to South Carolina to play for new coach Frank Martin. If he decided to come to Florida, the wiry, 6-foot-9 Harris would give UF its best shot-blocker at the rim since Joakim Noah.
Shot-blocking has been an area of weakness for the Gators since UF’s back-to-back national title runs in 2006 and 2007. Florida ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots 2012 (3.4 bpg) and 11th out of 12 teams in 2011 (3.6 bpg).
That lack of interior defense was apparent in UF’s late collapse against Louisville in the Elite Eight. Louisville freshman forward Chane Behanan scored 11 of his 17 points in the final 8:33, many on uncontested shots from close range.
Harris was tied for second in the SEC in blocked shots last season, averaging 2.3 per game. Though limited offensively, Harris also ranked 16th in the SEC in rebounding at 5.5 per game.
It also was interesting that Martin allowed Harris to visit Florida, given the hyper-sensitive nature of coaches when it comes to transferring to schools within conference (see Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan). But Martin has a strong relationship with Florida coach Billy Donovan, dating back to when Donovan recruited Udonis Haslem when Martin coached Haslem at Miami High. It seems likely that Martin would grant permission for Harris to transfer within the SEC.
Under NCAA rules, Harris would need to sit out a year and wouldn’t be eligible to play until the the 2013-14. As a rising junior, Harris would have two years of eligibility remaining. It’s unclear at this point if Harris will ask for a waiver to play right away in 2012-13.
Donovan has had recent success with transfer players. Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin started two seasons for the Gators (2010-11) before being picked in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario was UF’s leading scorer off the bench last season and has a chance to win a starting job at guard as a senior.
Here’s an updated look at NCAA Division I transfer rules. Contrary to popular belief, an athlete can’t automatically receive a waiver just because of a coaching change. Harris played his first two seasons at South Carolina under Darrin Horn, who was fired last March.