Prather makes impact in debut

Casey Prather didn't waste time announcing his return to his teammates and all those in the O'Connell Center. Eighteen seconds after checking in during the second half, he skied for an offensive rebound, corralled it and went back up to draw a foul. The crowd noticed the effort, but it was the Florida bench that appreciated it the most. The junior has developed a knack for the athletic plays.

"I smiled in my head when I saw him get that rebound," said Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, with an ear-to-ear grin.

The only thing that has kept Casey Prather from extended minutes on the court in his first two years is his decision making. He isn't always decisive, and sometimes when a decision is made, it's the wrong one. It can look as if Prather's mind is spinning at warp speed while his body is slow to react.

But when he's right, the junior is athletic and flashes that athleticism in multiple facets of the game. It happened again on Friday as Prather played his first game of the season after two preseason concussions, posting eight points, four rebounds and zero turnovers in 13 minutes.

With less than four minutes to play, Patric Young pulled down an offensive rebound and found Prather alone in the corner. As the defense sprinted out to get a hand up before Prather could shoot, he put the ball on the floor and went under the arms of a UCF defender going for a block at the front of the rim.

Prather picked up his dribble under the basket and threw down a thunderous dunk on the opposite side of the basket as his momentum carried him courtside toward the Florida bench.

"He brings energy," Wilbekin said. "That's what we're looking for. He gets the whole team excited when he does stuff like that."

The highlights Prather provided in the second half almost didn't happen because of more unfortunate luck. He checked in late in the first half, and while fighting for a rebound, took a shot below his lip. He started to bleed and was soon taken to the locker room to get "four or five stitches.

For an upperclassman that missed the first four games of the season, it was the last thing he wanted to go through.

"As soon as it happened, I was just upset," Prather said. "I didn't know if I was going to get to play again, but I tried not to show any emotion."

He was cleared to return in the second half, but it was added frustration to an early season that has been filled with them. He suffered a concussion in preseason practice and was held out of Florida's only exhibition game. It wasn't expected to affect his status for the season opener.

When Prather was trying to return and get in shape for the first game of the regular season, he was hit again during practice and suffered his second concussion. It was another tough blow that caused his season to pause.

"The second one just frustrated me even more," Prather said. "I was just more mad because I knew I'd be out even longer, and the season was just coming around the corner when it happened. I was pretty upset."

Prather's presence off the bench gives the Gators seven veteran players that are well versed in the system. That combined with freshman Michael Frazier's increased minutes, and Donovan feels good about his team with Prather back.

"I was happy he was able to get on the floor and perform," Donovan said. "We've got a solid, veteran group with those guys that know what we're doing on both ends of the floor offensively and defensively."

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