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Billy Donovan welcomes back Damontre Harris, still waiting on Chris Walker’s eligibility

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(Florida coach Billy Donovan (USATSI)

Three weeks after closing the door on Damontre Harris' time in his program, Florida coach Billy Donovan reopened it Wednesday after the Gators' win over South Carolina.

Harris, a 6-foot-10 forward/center, spent the fall semester suspended for unspecified violations of team rules and went days and even weeks at a time without communicating with his coaches. It lead Donovan to dismiss Harris from the team just before Christmas.

At the time, Donovan described the situation as 'just too far gone.' But that tone was gone Wednesday and replaced with optimism that the relationship can be repaired and Harris' career resurrected even though he will not play this season.

“We traded some texts over the Christmas break and he realized that he had made a big mistake,” Donovan told reporters after the game. “He wants to work his way back on the team. It's going to be similar to Scottie Wilbekin's situation in that he has to meet some terms and conditions. Can he make it? I don't know, but if he does it will be a great comeback story.”

It's only natural to wonder if Donovan's willingness to give Harris yet another opportunity is in some way related to the NCAA's inability to get Chris Walker's eligibility cleared up.

Walker, another 6-10 forward, spent the fall semester completing three online courses to become eligible for his freshman season. He was admitted to Florida in December and allowed to practice but hasn't been cleared to play by the NCAA yet.

But it sounds as if Donovan just has a soft spot for Harris, who clearly hasn't done much to earn it since transferring to Florida from South Carolina in 2012.

Donovan was emphatic in saying that Harris will not play for the team this season. So it's not like he will provide the team any added depth, playmaking or rebounding it is currently missing from having Walker in street clothes.

If Donovan is able to get both of them into good standing and playing at any point in the future, the Gators would be even more formidable in terms of athleticism, rebounding and versatility.

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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