As the Florida Gators men’s basketball team kicks off the season Friday, former Gator Casey Prather will also start a new season—on the other side of the country.
Prather will make his season debut with the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League Friday. The Jam, a Phoenix Suns affiliate, picked up the wingman late in the offseason.
The D-League has proven to help players get to the next level. On opening night 117 players on the 30 NBA rosters were D-League alums, the highest in the league’s 11 seasons. Prather hopes this opportunity with the Jam will lead to the ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.
“Just watching guys, who have been there and done that already, it’s kind of encouraging, just because I’m still young, I still have a lot to learn and I’m getting better, so [I’m] just taking this advantage in the D-League and just try to increase and maximize my skill set.”
During his time playing in a professional environment, Prather has improved upon his game, learning to be more aggressive. The greater spacing on court in the pro game is providing Prather with new options to go along with his strong shooting and slashing abilities he displayed at Florida.
“Taking more of my shots, creating more shots, because at Florida it was more about, the way we played, we were sharing the ball a lot, and now you still have to share the ball a lot, but have to be aggressive enough to make your own shot happen,” Prather said.
Prather said the Bakersfield players and coaches have been encouraging and supportive, seeing a lot in the player. The coaches have shown Prather areas in which he can improve and his teammates attempt to get the forward to be more aggressive in an unusual way. If Prather passes up a shot he was supposed to take he has to pay the players a dollar.
The former Gator still keeps in contact with his former teammates, such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Eli Carter, Kasey Hill and Jacob Kurtz. While the current Gators notice a difference in the team from last year due to the players that graduated, they’re encouraged to start the season and think they’ll be successful, according to the alum. Though he’s not around anymore, the jokes cracked on one another makes Prather feel like he’s still there.
“We had a lot of great memories, just being around those guys, just the strides that we made each and every year and the fight that we had at the beginning of each and every year, even after having success in the previous year, that’s like the biggest memories I have of those guys,” Prather said.
As his alma mater starts their season, Prather will do the same Friday night. Both the Gators and Prather are looking for growth and success on their respective courts this season, leading to a bigger stage down the road. For Prather, the success will come with hard work, persistence and patience.
“I don’t like to place an expectation or try to get an achievement before time, I just want to work hard and just stay consistent and when it comes, it comes,” he said. “If not, then I’ll just keep working hard to get that.”