Harris plans to transfer; Gill unlikely to return

Special to GoGamecocksApril 16, 2012 

South Carolina sophomore forward Damontre Harris has decided to transfer and asked for his release, according to his high school coach.

Heath Vandevender said Monday that Harris met with new Gamecock coach Frank Martin on Monday morning.

Vandevender said he has been in touch with USC assistant athletic director Kevin O'Connell because athletic director Eric Hyman is out of town. He said O'Connell indicated the school will release Harris to all schools except N.C. State.

According to a source, the reason why was the concern over potential illegal contact and tampering with Harris. Martin and his staff have made no official accusation of tampering.

Vandevender said that is not acceptable to Harris, who is from Fayetteville, N.C., and may want to consider N.C. State. Vandevender said Harris has not yet talked to any schools.

In a statement released Monday evening, USC said the 6-foot-9 Harris "has requested permission to contact other four-year NCAA institutions in order to explore the option of transferring from the University of South Carolina. The institution is continuing to work with Damontre regarding his possible options."

Martin a few weeks ago gave freshman forward Anthony Gill the freedom to transfer to any school he wants, with no limitations or restrictions.

Any thought that Gill might return to the USC basketball team was all but squashed by him on Sunday night.

“I haven’t talked to coach Martin so I don’t think that’s an option,” said Gill, who has not been going through the individual workouts with the new coaching staff.

This weekend the 6-foot-8 Gill took an official visit to Virginia.

“It went well,” he said. “I got to know the coaches and players and hung out mostly with my former teammate Akil Mitchell.”

Gill’s parents went with him on the visit. He will visit Ohio State this coming weekend and has no other visits planned after that.

Gill said he’s undecided about future visits or a future school, adding that he’s “taking things day by day.”

With Malik Cooke graduating and Gill and Harris poised to leave, USC will lose three of its top four scorers and more than half of its rebounding from last season.

Harris averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds last season; Gill scored 7.6 points and grabbed 4.7 rebounds a game.

Harris has been involved in transfer rumors for a few months, even before Martin was hired. In fact, there were rumblings he was looking to get out even before Darrin Horn was let go last month.

Former USC assistant Orlando Early is now working on the N.C. State staff. One basketball source said Early has been working through Vandevender for several months trying to facilitate a transfer to Raleigh. According to the source, Early has also reached out to Harris, citing his previous relationship with him as the reason for the contact.

Vandevender denies that claim.

Harris plans to fight Martin’s decision, but it’s a battle he’s not likely to win. Coaches often put limitations on transfer destinations for various reasons, and players don’t have much recourse other than to follow those guidelines.

If Martin doesn't change his stance regarding the Wolfpack, it means Harris will have to choose another school, or return to USC.

Harris and Gill's departure would give Martin five scholarships available for 2012-13.

The Associated Press contributed

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