Florida Gators: Nerlens Noel

Florida's Prather steps in, steps up

February, 12, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Casey Prather left the Florida locker room after the Gators’ 69-52 victory over Kentucky with a small red bump on his lower lip near the corner of his mouth.

That wasn’t a lot of damage for the 6-foot-6 swingman despite an evening of playing inside against the nation’s top shot-blocker and a 7-footer. The Gators hope he can hold up that well throughout the rest of the regular season.

That’s pretty much the only way UF can weather the loss of Will Yeguete and put itself in position to make another deep NCAA tournament run.

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Casey Prather
AP Photo/Phil SandlinCasey Prather scored 12 points and took three charges for the Gators.
"It [stepping in for Yeguete] wasn’t really in the back of my mind," Prather said after scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots, and dishing out two assists. "I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could."

The 6-7 Yeguete -- the Gators’ second-leading rebounder, best post defender, and the key to UF’s full-court press -- underwent surgery last Friday to clean out loose bodies in his right knee. Replacing part of Yeguete’s production fell to Prather, and he has embraced the challenge. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the Gators’ rout of Mississippi State last Saturday, but the Bulldogs sit in the SEC’s cellar and have won just seven games. It was going to be a much bigger task to do it against Kentucky and 6-10 Nerlens Noel, the nation’s leading shot-blocker (4.5 per game), and 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Prather not only held his own, he drew three charges and had a big first half to help the Gators rally from a slow start. With Erik Murphy on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, Prather scored eight points -- two of which came on a dunk in front of Cauley-Stein.

"It's just a matter of confidence with that guy," UF center Patric Young said. "Because, I know he can do that day in and day out. He's just really athletic with really active hands. It was a night where he could show what he can do."

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Noel officially visits Hoyas; UNC next? 

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
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There are a pair of newsworthy pieces of information regarding No. 1 Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton).

There’s been a lot of buzz about Noel’s visits to Kentucky and Syracuse. At first, we thought they were official but I was quickly alerted they were not. At the time of his trips to Syracuse and subsequently to Kentucky, Noel was still officially a junior.

This weekend, however, he’ll visit the Georgetown Hoyas officially. The implication there is that Noel has been deemed a senior at the Tilton School. If he had not been, then this weekend’s visit to Hoyaland would have been unofficial.
Billy Donovan and his staff at Florida have already assembled a top-25 recruiting class and arguably one of the top incoming backcourts in the Class of 2012 with Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, N.C./United Faith Christian Cademy), Michael Frazier (Tampa, Fla./Montverde Academy) and Dillon Graham (Orlando, Fla./First Academy).

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Billy Donovan
AP Photo/Phil SandlinBilly Donovan is determined to land a big man in this class.
With all three players having signed their letters of intent in November, Donovan and his staff have been fixated on adding frontcourt talent for several months and appear to be in good shape with a number of the nation’s best remaining interior talents including Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Ontario/Findlay College Prep), who reportedly has the Gators near the top of his list.

Donovan spent Wednesday looking at two of his other top targets in the frontcourt, both of whom star for New Hampshire prep schools.

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