EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in Gator Country’s senior spotlight series, highlighting a different senior on the Florida basketball team leading up to Saturday’s senior day game against Kentucky.
In most 21st century college basketball careers there comes a crossroads for the non-freshman phenom. Either commit oneself to working hard and rising up the depth chart the old fashion way, or transfer elsewhere and start from scratch on another campus. Florida forward Casey Prather’s path was no different.
It’s always a culture shock to go from being the man in high school to being just another freshman at the end of the bench, striving for minutes you think you deserve. After only logging double digit minutes twice in conference play and finishing his 2010-’11 campaign averaging 6.7 minutes per game, Prather came to what he regards as the low point of his career, a lack of time on the floor and a lack of production in the box scores.
“[Leaving the program] came across my mind,” Prather told reporters Monday. “But not to the point where I was that serious about transferring. Just more of a conscience thought, I guess.”
Although he obviously didn’t leave, the frustration level was still there after his sophomore year when it took a push from fellow senior Scottie Wilbekin and members of the coaching staff to keep Prather around and motivated. He stuck with it, in his words he “stayed the course” and remained committed to the process. It’s an approach that head coach Billy Donovan preaches, and something Prather wrapped his arms around. The relationship between coach and player is something Prather values.
“It’s grown quite a bit because he knows some of the obstacles I came through from earlier experiences in high school,” he said. “He’s been a great guy and great mentor who’s prepared me for the games and for the future.”
In his final year in orange and blue he’s led the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game through 30 games, he’s also been named as a finalist for the USBWA player of the year award. His most proficient scoring performance came in the season opener against UNF when he scored 28 points; he then went on a streak of having double figures scoring in Florida’s first 20 games.
His friendships with his fellow seniors are something he treasures, a group he says “came in working together, hungry from the get go.” Now in the twilight of his Florida career, he looks back on where he came from and fondly acknowledges where he is now.
“I’m smarter. More aware of what goes into winning, what goes into doing my job,” Prather said. “I just feel like I had a lot of help with the seniors and coaching staff. I just feel like I’ve matured a lot.”