Prather off to a Fast Start

Casey Prather knows his decision making on the court kept him on the bench as a freshman. His 6-6 frame is dripping with athleticism that makes him a solid defender, but bad passes and costly turnovers on offense hurt his progression for the Gators. With one season under his belt, Prather is being smarter with the ball and playing well in practice because of it.

"It was a big emphasis coming in," Casey Prather said about not turning the ball over. "As a freshman, I made a lot of bad decisions. I just want to take care of the ball."

Most of the turnovers came while passing the ball. He got sloppy and didn't focus on making the pass, allowing a defender to slip in front of the person he was passing to and steal the ball. In 222 minutes played last season, Prather turned the ball over 18 times. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin turned the ball over 28 times in last season in over 631 minutes played.

Prather's play so far in practice hasn't stood out because of his scoring. He has taken the second fewest shots in practice so far behind only backup center Cody Larson.

"Casey Prather continues to do well and understand his role of what he needs to bring to the table," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "He hasn't taken a lot of shots and his shooting percentage is not great, but to me, he's playing his best basketball since he has been here to this point."

Prather blamed the turnovers on "jitterbugs" that plagued him in his first year of college basketball.

This season, he is transitioning to play the small forward position while mixing in some time at power forward when the Gators play a smaller lineup. He brings athleticism and slashing ability to both positions.

Prather has put an emphasis on his rebounding in practice. After losing Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin from last year's team, the Gators lost 19.4 rebounds per game from last year's team.

"We need people like me to rebound," Prather said. "We're missing length, so it gives me a chance to show off what I can do."

"And we've got so many other scorers, so I don't have to do as much."

With Prather not scoring in high volumes, his impact has come in other areas. His height and length makes him a tough defender, while his vertical leap gives him a chance to be a solid rebounder.

His game has improved on all levels, and his teammates know the reason.

"It's his confidence," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "He's not forcing anything. It's not like he's scoring a bunch of points, but he's taking the right shots. He's finishing. On defense, he's very intense."

The Gators found out on Wednesday that they will start the season as the No. 10 ranked team in the coaches' preseason poll. The players said they weren't aware of it until they spoke with the media before Thursday's practice, but they will handle the increased expectations by listening to Coach Donovan.

"He's pretty wise and explains to us before the season starts that expectations don't mean too much," Prather said.

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