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Florida Basketball 12 For '12: Casey Prather, the blank check

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Casey Prather came on late in 2012. Can he be that player for the Gators in 2012-13?

Jamie Squire

Can we get 12 posts related to Florida basketball published in the next three days, before Florida plays in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic against Georgetown? Yes, we can.

No Florida player is more of a blank check than junior forward Casey Prather.

Prather came to Florida in 2010 as part of a recruiting class that included future star Patric Young, future super-sub Will Yeguete, and future forgotten man Cody Larson, and he looked to have the best comparison of all of those players: Corey Brewer. With both small forwards hailing from Tennessee, freighted with far more athleticism than polish, Prather had a path to contributing to Billy Donovan's continued rebuild from the teams Brewer helped to titles.

A funny thing happened on the way to the future: Prather didn't tag along. Prather played more than 15 minutes just twice in 2010-11, in two of their first three games of the season. Then, after playing throughout Florida's non-conference schedule in 2011-12, his minutes dwindled in SEC play, and Prather played more than 10 minutes just twice, home and away against Tennessee ... and only played 11 minutes each time, despite foul trouble for Bradley Beal in one game and injuries that kept Mike Rosario, Yeguete, and Larson out of the other.

And then this happened:

That slam on Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer in the 2012 SEC Tournament was Prather's only bucket of the event, and came in an eight-minute appearance that also included two turnovers and two fouls. But it seemed to spark Prather, who was taking advantage of Yeguete's absence: He played 22 minutes against Virginia, and scored a career-high 14 points in them, while also snagging four rebounds, two offensive, and not committing a turnover. He had two blocks in nine minutes against Norfolk State, and played 16 minutes against Marquette and 13 against Louisville. He wasn't great in any game except the Virginia one, but he was much, much better than he had been before, making good decisions on the floor and playing decent defense.

With Beal gone and Yeguete likely shifting to playing more in the frontcourt and underneath the basket for the undersized Gators, Prather should have chances like that again in 2012-13. Challenges still exist — Prather's going to be pushed by Rosario, and maybe by Michael Frazier and Dillon Graham; the chances of a Yeguete-Erik Murphy-Young frontcourt getting some burn may also put some of Prather's minutes in jeopardy; Prather's two concussions in nine days will mean he starts slow this season, at the very least — but Prather finally showed in the last five games of live action we've seen him that he's capable of stepping up and making good on his potential.

How Prather endorses that blank check of potential, and the amount he puts on it, is all on him. But we have reason to be optimistic about his signature.