It’s usually the Florida basketball team’s gridiron counterparts which are often ravaged by a slew of midseason injuries.
In fact, the Gators’ football team became so acquainted with the circumstances surrounding injuries and thus finding players to fill their teammates’ roles, that the team coined its own slogan during this past season — “man down, man up.”
When Florida takes the floor against Texas A&M on Thursday in College Station, Texas, the Gators will again be down one player — forward Casey Prather — while trotting out several other hobbled stars for the crucial conference matchup at 7 p.m.
The number of injuries both significant and otherwise has been almost endless for the Gators since the dawn of the season.
Prather started camp with not one, but two concussions, prompting the athletic sparkplug to wear a protective helmet during practices, and kept him out of action for the Gators’ first few games.
And that was just the beginning.
Following Prather’s injury, the Gators experienced a broken finger (Scottie Wilbekin), a broken rib (Erik Murphy), knee tendonitis (Will Yeguete) and a high ankle sprain (Mike Rosario).
Both Murphy and Yeguete were listed as questionable heading into Florida’s conference opener against Georgia last week. While the two players would eventually play, neither were fit to start, prompting Prather to get the starting nod.
Prather emerged as one of the stories of the game against Georgia, scoring the Gators’ first six points and finishing with 10 points and 7 rebounds. After such a tremendous outing, Prather was rewarded with another start — albeit, at the hands of Rosario’s injury — when the Gators took on LSU in Baton Rouge last Saturday.
Prather again got off to a hot start against the Tigers, as the energetic junior paced the Gators with six first half points. However, with just over a minute to play in the half, Prather would suffer a high ankle sprain, causing him to limp over to the bench appearing to be in considerable pain.
On Monday, Florida coach Billy Donovan announced that Prather’s injury will sideline him for 10-14 days. While the loss is another small blow for the Gators, it’s perhaps even tougher on Prather who had really begun to flash the talent which has been buzzed about since his arrival to UF.
“I think he was really playing well. I really do,” Donovan said. “He started the year with the concussions and it took him a while to get in the flow. He’s been playing really good basketball. He played really well at Yale and I thought he played very well against Georgia … we were having a hard time scoring in the first half against LSU. He really gave us a spark to close out the half right before he got hurt. It’s unfortunate. It’s something that he can hopefully get back from … we will miss him because he is a versatile player and he has played well for us so far.”
Donovan called both Prather’s concussion and ankle injury “bizarre,” but he noted that the rest of the Gators’ injuries have been common mid-season occurrences.
“Most of the injuries that have taken place for our team have been in games,” Donovan said. “Mike Rosario gets hurt in the Georgia game with his ankle. Will Yeguete, his tendinitis, so to speak, is something he has to battle … Erik Murphy gets hit against Marquette and is really limited him after that game. Then, he gets hit against Air Force. There have just been these things that are just part of playing. Anytime you step on the floor in practice or in a game, you’re always in a position where something like that can happen. When Scottie Wilbekin broke his finger, you talk about a freak thing, he just reached out for a pass and it hit him the wrong way and broke his finger. That’s just kind of the things that happen.”
On Tuesday, Rosario tweeted that he will be suiting up for the Texas A&M game. Donovan said that Rosario’s injury is one that is painful, but Rosario has been cleared to play. With Rosario, Murphy and Yeguete still battling their respective injuries, the Gators will be certainly be playing through pain on Thursday.
With one or possibly all three of those players perhaps needing frequent rest, the Gators will begin to turn to their talented freshman class to help fill the void. Guard Michael Frazier has already turned into a reliable player for Florida, but according to Donovan, the remaining members of the class may also start to get significant looks.
“One thing I respect about Dillon Graham is his ability to pass the ball,” Donovan said. “I think for him against a team like LSU at home, that was creating 12 steals a game, forcing 19 turnovers and with Mike Rosario being out, in terms of a passing and handling standpoint we needed that. It could be totally different against Texas A&M. It’s not necessarily him. It could be Braxton Ogbueze or DeVon Walker and as we get deeper into Texas A&M, we’ll figure those things out.”