MEMPHIS, Tenn.– During the second and third rounds, junior Jacob Kurtz was making a return trip home, in the Sweet 16, Casey Prather is the Florida player heading back to friendly confines. He’s from Jackson, just 90 minutes away from Memphis, and will finally be able to play in front of family and friends he’s usually too far from during Florida home games in Gainesville.
“I mean it’s gonna be great just having my family there to support me,” Prather said. “I know they really want to come to a lot of my games but they live kinda far away. Just me playing back close to home is great for them.”
He’s played a few AAU games in the FedEx Forum, but he didn’t grow up a Grizzlies fan, he idolized the Los Angeles Lakers growing up, but agreed the environment at the Forum was “cool.”
One would think that pressure would be there to perform in front of so many close friends and family, not for Prather though.
“Nah, no pressure at all,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s about team when we get in the game. I’m not really the type of player that thinks about pressure on myself to have to perform in front of my family.”
Any pressure he does feel is certainly alleviated by a group of talented players he’s lucky to play with. Prather says it’s a comforting feeling to be apart of the group he’s come so far with, and he knows there’s more to come.
“It’s great;” he says. “Anybody can come out here and have a good game so we’re not really focused too much on ourselves individually. If we do have a bad game you know we have another player in our ear telling us that it’s ok, we’ll have more opportunities so it’s pretty fun.”
Florida is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season…That streak ties them for the sixth-longest since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985…Thursday’s game will mark the 15th NCAA tournament game for Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young, tying the Florida record held by Chris Richard and Lee Humphrey…Michael Frazier II is three three pointers shy of tying the single season school record set by Humphrey…Florida’s Sweet 16 berth marks the 12th time by the 11th different team that a four-year Sweet 16 streak has been reached since 1985…UCLA has reached the Sweet 16 in 18 seasons since the tournament expanded in to 32 teams in 1975…The Bruins last reached the Sweet 16 in 2008…UCLA is 0-3 all-time against Florida…Head coach Steve Alford is the 12th head coach in college basketball history to lead at least four teams to the NCAA tournament…The Bruins have averaged 83.1 points through 36 games, that is the team’s best offensive output since 1998…Guards Norman Powell and David Wear have started every game for UCLA.
On how Donovan’s tournament coaching experience helps this team
Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin:
Well, he definitely has a lot of experience, and he knows what it takes to get it done. I’d say his experience from a coaching standpoint, being here in 2006 and 2007, we’ve been here the last three years, just that’s what helps me the most. Him just being able to coach me and direct me and correct me if I’m doing wrong, that’s really where he’s helped me the most.”
On defending a UCLA team that passes a lot:
Florida forward Will Yeguete:
We understand their size, and we know they pass the ball really well. I think we have to make sure to use our hands on defense and help each other a lot even more than we’ve done before because we know that they don’t really turn the ball over. With their size, they’re going to be able to just pass the ball over us. So I think that as a team, we’ve got to understand this is a different team, a different size, and we’ll just have to do more and be better.”
On takeaways from previous games against UCLA:
Florida head coach Billy Donovan:
You know, it’s hard just because I know the jersey, letters across the jersey still say UCLA. But for our team, everything’s really changed. We’ve got a totally different team, totally different players. They have a different coach. They have different players. So I’m not so sure what we would be able to take from any of those past games, past experiences.”
On previously being recruited by Florida:
UCLA guard/forward Kyle Anderson:
Well, it was a very close decision. I wouldn’t have had a problem with going to both schools. I just happened to like UCLA more. I think the player development that I saw when being recruited by Coach Donovan, I think that played a big role in how much I liked Florida at the time. But I decided to come to UCLA, and I was happy with my decision.”
On Florida’s physicality:
UCLA guard Jordan Adams:
You know they play in the SEC conference. It’s a very physical conference. They’ve been battling. They played teams like Tennessee with two big guys down there, Jarnell Stokes and Maymon. So they battle big teams. They’re a physical team.”
On common ground with Donovan found in having a son on the team:
UCLA head coach Steve Alford:
Yeah, it’s just one of those special blessings that happens in the time of your career. I was a coach’s kid. So growing up in Newcastle, I played for my dad, and my brother played for my dad. I’ve had coaches that have been coach’s kids on my staff, Coach O’Neill at New Mexico and now Coach Schilling here at UCLA were coaches’ kids as well. So I’ve had a lot of help down the line preparing for this. I think that’s a unique situation.”