Casey Prather primed to emerge in senior season

By Adam Silverstein
November 12, 2013

It has only been one game, but Florida Gators senior forward Casey Prather had the best outing of his career in Friday’s season opener and looks to be on the verge of finally putting all the pieces together.

Prather doubled his career-high with 28 points, made 10-of-15 baskets, grabbed eight rebounds and filled out his line with an assist, steal and block. An inefficient foul shooter (.583 last season), he also hit 8-of-11 attempts from the charity stripe.

“I think this is the first time since he’s been here at Florida that I really feel like he’s played with a clear head,” head coach Billy Donovan said on Monday.

“I think that a lot of times, even his freshman and sophomore year, he looked like a deer in headlights. He was overwhelmed, didn’t want to make a mistake, he thought too much. For whatever reason, I think his head is cleared. Whether that’s through experiences, making mistakes, a better understanding of what he needs to do. Whatever it is, I feel like he’s playing with a much clearer head.

“You don’t see him taking a lot of ill-advised shots.”

Prather’s struggles with the Gators have been well-documented. He barely saw the court his first two seasons and was basically an afterthought until he was thrust into a contributing role in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament against Virginia. Prather went 6-for-7 and scored 14 points in what to that point was easily the biggest game of his young basketball career.

“His freshman and sophomore year, he had zero awareness. Part of giving a guy a longer rope is you have to have self-awareness,” Donovan explained.

“I think there’s a lot of things that went through his development. Maybe his sophomore year, what happened in the NCAA Tournament against Virginia gave him the confidence that he can do it.”

Prather hoped to use that game as fuel for his junior season but was hobbled by injuries that either kept him off the court or limited his effectiveness. He first suffered two concussions and was even forced to wear boxing headgear just so he could step on the floor for practice. Then, he had to miss four games at the start of Southeastern Conference play due to a high-ankle sprain.

But Prather fought back and became an efficient scorer and high-volume rebounder for UF late in the regular season. He also helped propel Florida to an integral 61-51 victory at home over Alabama in the second-to-last home game of the season.

Down eight with 11:49 left in the game, Donovan subbed in Prather and the Gators immediately took off on a 19-2 run. He netted eight points during the scoring stretch and was the “only guy who had a level of energy,” according to Donovan that evening.

Prather finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and also played excellent defense throughout the contest.

“I thought he single-handedly won the game for us,” Donovan said Monday.

“Now being a senior, maybe going through some of those experiences, sitting, watching, seeing his mistakes, knowing what to do, what not to do, what’s going to work, what’s not going to work. He doesn’t seem to be over-thinking. Maybe things are coming a little more naturally to him.”

Fully healthy, Prather did not make a big deal about his performance even though his coach already provided his fair share of praise.

However, he did explain why he thinks he was able to perform so well.

“I feel like I’ve been more levelheaded. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about the game, where to be on offense and where to put myself on defense. That helps out a lot,” Prather said.

If he keeps up this level of play, Prather will be the one lending a helping hand to his teammates as Florida looks to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2007.

One Comment

  1. gatorboi352 says:

    Cant wait!

    Go Gators!!

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