It’s early, but Florida coach Billy Donovan has been pleased with the play of junior forward Casey Prather in his return from post-concussion symptoms.
In two games, Prather is averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds off the bench. More importantly, Prather has just one turnover in two games.
The 6-foot-6 Prather has been wearing boxing headgear in practice in an effort to prevent further concussions. Prather suffered two concussions during a two-week span in preseason practices. After the second concussion, Prather wasn’t cleared to return to practice until UF’s fifth game of the season against UCF.
Donovan joked that the headgear is helping the turnover-prone Prather focus better in practice.
“He’s got tunnel vision and he can’t see anyone in front of him,” Donovan said. “Maybe the more people he sees. the harder it is.
“Casey has done good. The biggest thing with him right now is his conditioning is behind and I think to his credit, he’s trying to push himself through that, he’s trying to get better. But you can see he’s winded. He’s missed a lot. You think about the first several games, him getting the first concussion and then the second concussion, he’s missed a lot right now. But it’s great to have him back in practice, with his energy, his athleticism. I think the biggest thing for him right now is just getting in better shape.”
A Jackson, Tenn., native, Prather was viewed as a strong under-the-radar recruit by the Gators. Some recruiting analysts compared Prather to another former Tennessee Gator standout, Corey Brewer, because of his athletic and defensive ability.
But it’s taken longer for Prather to develop, because of his inability to consistently value the basketball. Donovan said that Prather has improved his decision-making with the ball, but still slips up on occasion. Prather gained confidence at the end of last season in March when he filled a valuable role off the bench for injured forward Will Yeguete. He scored a career-high 14 points off the bench last season in UF’s NCAA Tournament opening win over Virginia.
“He’s got assurance that he knows he can do it,” Donovan said. “I’ve got confidence in him. He’s a junior right now. I think some of the things early on his freshman and sophomore year, hopefully he’s grown through it. He’s still got to get better taking care of the ball, making good decisions and doing those things. I’ve got confidence in Casey, I just have to try to help him get back in better shape.”