Freeze Frame: Casey Prather, Rising SuperstarPosted by Brian Joyce on November 19th, 2013
Julius Randle, Johnny O’Bryant, Jarnell Stokes and Marshall Henderson are just a few examples of household names in the SEC — a list of guys with which even the casual basketball fan is familiar. But there is always room for more. A previously lesser-known player has made a case for his inclusion on this exclusive list of SEC stars everyone should know. In just four games, Florida’s Casey Prather has emerged into a star, and it is time to join the bandwagon before it’s too late.
It’s not as though we could have seen this development materializing. Prather averaged under four points per game over his career coming into this season. He scored a season high 12 points in 2012-13. Twice. He even grabbed nine rebounds in a game against Kentucky. But nothing in his statistical profile suggested that this was an underrated player poised for a breakout season. Instead, Prather the average player has broken out of the gates in a major way. He opened up with 28 points and eight rebounds against North Florida and has already followed that performance with 27 more points on 10-of-11 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock. Even when he struggled to score against Southern on Monday night, Prather found other ways to contribute by chipping in nine rebounds and four assists. Prather has excelled on the court in a variety of ways, and he will only get better once Billy Donovan’s Gators are at full strength.
What makes Prather so good, you ask? Let me count the ways.
Lockdown defense: It’s so easy to become enamored with Prather’s offensive display that you could almost forget how good he is defensively. I tracked Florida’s defense in its 86 – 56 win over Arkansas-Little Rock and Prather is more than just a star on the offensive end of the court. He finished with a team high eight forced misses on defense, adding two forced turnovers as well.
Prather’s stop percentage is high at 70.4 percent, and his defensive rating of 79.3 is among the best on the team. This Florida squad could be exceptional defensively once Scottie Wilbekin and Damontre Harris return.
Quickness: Prather is quick with and without the ball. In the below play, the defender comes out on the perimeter to guard Will Yeguete on a pick-and-pop he runs with point guard Kasey Hill. Yeguete passes to the corner as his defender slides down, but Prather blows past him. That poor Trojan never stood a chance.
His aggressiveness and ability to beat opponents off the dribble have enabled Prather to shoot 73.0 percent of his shots at the rim, (connecting on 77.8 percent of those attempts) a far cry from the 55.1 percent of his shots he took at the rim last season. His quickness and one-on-one abilities give Florida an efficient player to isolate on the wing for the drive. The Gators don’t have a player they should feel confident with in an isolation otherwise, so expect Prather to be the go-to guy when Donovan goes to the dry erase board in desperate need of two points.
Fast break specialist: As previously mentioned, Prather is quick without the ball as well. His ability to get out in front of the defense in transition has helped him draw 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes, contributing to his increased scoring. In this next play below, Prather beats the defense down the court with the aid of a really nice look from Hill:
For a player as committed to defense as Prather has been, his ability to beat the defense in transition is especially impressive. It is difficult to excel at both, and Prather manages to commit to both ends. And here, Prather just uses his quickness and hustle to speed past the Trojans again:
And, well, I could go on, but let’s just say he does this a few other times. Prather also stepped out and drained a three-point bucket, and he snatched two offensive rebounds and put both back in for easy points against the Trojans. He went to the free throw line and knocked down six of eight attempts there. He hustled his way to 27 points in that game, which is why you need to get to know him now. Casey Prather will be a household name in the SEC by the end of this season. I can’t get enough of his game, so I am officially boarding the bandwagon. There’s a seat next to me, but I suggest you board soon because this bus is leaving the station when the rest of America catches on to what we already know about #24 in Gainesville.