Jackson (Tenn.) North Side
With last night's verbal commitment, Casey Prather made official what many had been speculating for the last week or so. The 6-foot-5 small forward from Jackson (Tenn.) North Side is a Florida Gator. Now that Prather is in the fold, it would be a great time to take a look at where he's come from to where he is now and will be in the future.
In doing these scouting reports I always like to start with the first scouting report I ever wrote on a player. For Prather, that came after watching him at the 2008 Real Deal on The Hill in Fayetteville, Ark. At the time, I wrote this while rating him a high major minus prospect, "An explosive athlete who roams the floor in transition looking for dunks, he's also quite active on the glass. He's all athlete at this point and doesn't handle the ball particularly well or make the best decisions. His jumper actually looks ok, he just can't shoot it off the dribble. Prather certainly has time to work on his deficiencies and he has the type of athleticism that means you have to keep watching him at a high level."
Currently ranked #55 in the class of 2010 by the good folks at Scout.com, many of the things that Prather did early to catch the eyes of coaches and scouts remain strengths. Above all, Prather is a hard working athlete who embraces physical play, defense and working the glass on both ends of the floor.
While he's very good -- perhaps even borderline elite -- from an athletic standpoint, it's impressive to see how much Prather has minimized the reliance on athleticism that used to so dominate his game. Instead, the senior wing has learned to use his athleticism to enhance what is a rapidly improving skill level. He's become a reliable mid range jump shooter who has also upgraded his ball handling skills making it easier to slash to the hoop and create scoring opportunities in space.
He doesn't necessarily play the prettiest game and won't be a guy who draws all kinds of oohs and aahs by dropping guys with clever dribble moves, but he's effective. When he puts the ball on the floor, he does so with a purpose and more importantly he stays under control. When you add this emerging offensive game onto a guy who is amongst the highest level rebounders and defenders at his position nationally.
As much as he's improved on the offensive end, Prather remains a work in progress. A pretty reliable scorer from 15 feet and in, Prather needs to become more effective from between 15 and 22 feet. He must continue to work on his ball handling and shooting from that range or else defenders are going to back off of him.
A terrific scorer around the basket and in transition, Prather must also fight that perception of some that he's in fact more of an undersized power forward than a true small forward. He'll still score some in the post during college, but it won't be near as easy to do so and because of that he'll also need to expand his game out along the baseline.
Given the style of play employed at Florida and throughout the SEC, Prather looks to have made a great choice. He's built to play transition basketball and projects easily as a college small forward capable of coming in and making a pretty good impact from day one. Most likely, his impact will be felt more on the defensive end and glass early in his career but it's a safe bet that he'll add some scoring punch before his career is over.
Not yet mentioned during the breakdown of Prather is how strong he appears to be mentally. Focused, tough and steady, he's the type of kid who looks like he'll embrace the entire college experience. He'll be coachable, will work hard and is very likely to become active in his community off the floor. Florida fans know as well as any others how important it is to have players committed to the entire college experience and Prather could end up being a very important piece as Billy Donovan and his staff look to return the Gators to the form of their back to back national championship squads of 2006 and 2007.