Prather proves worthy of start

Casey Prather found out on Wednesday morning that he would be starting Florida's Southeastern Conference opener. Fractured ribs for Erik Murphy and knee tendonitis for Will Yeguete pushed Prather into the starting lineup, and he saw it coming after Tuesday's practice ended with both still hobbled. Prather scored the first six points of the game, sparking the Gators to take an 11-0 lead.

"It's a great feeling," Casey Prather said. "I still have to keep working and getting better. There's still improvement that needs to happen."

After the first three minutes of the game, that would be tough to believe. Prather looked unstoppable in his first start since February 2011.

After Mike Rosario missed a three-pointer on Florida's second possession, Prather skied for the rebound over three Georgia players, corralled the ball and went back up to convert a contested layup.

Two possessions later, Prather showed his touch on a jumper after Erik Murphy found him open on the base line. The Gators set up their full court press, and Prather joined Kenny Boynton in the backcourt to create a trap on the Georgia point guard.

Prather's long arms deflected a pass, which he picked up and dunked home to complete his own 6-0 run and give the Gators a lead of that same number.

Just for good measure, Prather intercepted a pass in the paint. In the first 3:21 of play, Prather had six points, two steals and one rebound.

"I was just thinking about defense," Prather said. "I was guarding my man and being aggressive, flying around."

Prather is starting to get back into the form of what his teammates saw at the end of last season, but they've seen it for a lot longer than even that. The junior has drawn raves reviews from practice since he stepped foot on campus. He started to transition it to the games at the end of last season, but multiple concussions in preseason practices kept him from getting on the floor immediately this year.

The junior forward is now starting to get comfortable again, and it's showing. He's not tentative with the ball. He attacks his man on defense and has long arms to be disruptive.

A few strong practices before the Georgia game earned him the starting role and the chance to show Florida fans what he has been working on in practice.

"I felt that his focus in the last couple practices, he deserved (to start)," Florida guard Mike Rosario said. "He showed it out there tonight. He did a great job of rebounding, being in the right spot and making smart decisions with the ball.

"That's what I can tell you about our ball team. We have a lot of depth on our team. Any second anybody is ready to come in and produce."

Prather ended the game with ten points, seven rebounds and three steals in 21 minutes, shooting 5-for-7 from the field. It's an efficient stat line for a player who has rarely been called that in his career. Prather's ball handling issues and inconsistencies kept him off the court earlier in his career.

The expectation is that he has overcome those issues this season.

"Casey has played well," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "He gives us a different dimension and different kind of guy. When we play him at the power forward, he's an undersized forward that can move and is quick.

"He grabbed some incredible rebounds in traffic, scored our first six points and was really good in the press. It has been two games now where he has gotten back to where he was at the end of last year."


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