Transfers pushing through ‘dark days'

These are the tough times for the transfers on the Florida basketball team. Virginia Tech forward transfer Dorian Finney-Smith and South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris can't play this season because of NCAA rules, and the Florida coaches will do their best to keep their spirits up. Harris is injured and can't practice this season, but Finney-Smith has to continue helping the team in practice.

It's a familiar time for the Florida coaches. Billy Donovan knows how to handle it because he has been welcoming of transfers in recent years. It started when Vernon Macklin transferred from Georgetown to Florida. He sat out the 2008-09 season but averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in his two seasons in Gainesville.

Mike Rosario transferred from Rutgers and sat out during the 2010-11 season. He averaged 6.6 points and 1.4 rebounds last season, but he is going through a breakout season this year, leading the team with 12.9 points this season, shooting 48.2% from the field.

With the strong careers Macklin and Rosario had, Donovan continues to remain open to transfers if it's the right fit. Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris were both that.

However, they're both going through similar trials that Macklin and Rosario went through. They can lean on Rosario for advice on how he got through the tough times of not being able to be on the court, but it's adversity they'll have to fight through until the end of the season.

"This is like those dark days for transfers," Billy Donovan said. "You're starting to get into the holidays and they're not playing any games, but they've been practicing and lifting weights since September. You're never getting the reward of playing in games. There's some slippage sometimes."

For Harris, it's not as much of a blow. He dislocated his shoulder and tore the labrum in mid-October and had surgery a few weeks later. He got out of the sling weeks ago, but the Florida coaching staff will take it slow before getting him back on the court.

It's all about preparing him for the 2013-14 season. Harris was a shotblocker at South Carolina, averaging 2.4 blocks per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds. His offensive game needs refining after scoring 6.8 points per game last season. The plan was the work on that this season while facing Patric Young every day in practice, but it will have to be fast-tracked in the offseason.

"Damontre is back running on a treadmill," Donovan said. "He's out of his sling and will be about to start doing some work. Once we get to the middle of January, we'll start being able to do some things with him on the court. I don't anticipate him coming back to practice anytime soon. Unless the doctors say something different, we'll probably keep him out the entire year."

Finney-Smith played mostly power forward at Virginia Tech but transferred to Florida so that he could play more minutes at small forward. He averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds last season, as the Hokies needed him to play close to the basket and get rebounds.

His game is built to do much more. He can score in multiple ways and is skilled off the dribble. He will have a much bigger role next season.

"Do-Do has been good," Donovan said. "He has done a good job. He has gotten better and stronger."

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