Prather Stands Out in Exhibition Opener

Florida head coach Billy Donovan knew Thursday night's exhibition would be sloppy. The priority was to get young players on the floor, not focus on the units being substituted into the game. The young players got their feet wet, while the veteran players saw their minutes scaled back, as the Gators beat Florida Tech, 92-58.

"The game was a hard game for our guys to play in primarily because of myself," Donovan said. "Our substitution patterns weren't cohesive at all. I was putting guys in and out. I wanted to give our freshmen an opportunity to play, so we could get a look at them."

Donovan emphasized that he knows what his starters can do. The Gators return their starting five from last season, so he doesn't need to see the veterans on the floor. Even sophomore Kenny Boynton has spent a year in the system, so Donovan is comfortable with his ability on the floor.

He didn't know what to expect from the freshmen.

Four of the seven players who had the most minutes Thursday night were freshmen. Two seniors, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin, barely played. Tyus was on the court for ten minutes, while Macklin saw actually for only 12 minutes.

The reason was simply. Donovan wanted to see how his freshmen big men would play.

"I appreciated Alex and Vernon's attitude during the game," Donovan said. "They work just as hard, if not harder than anyone else on our team the last two weeks to get ready. There's an excitement to play, and I know they wanted to play more, but they see the big picture. They realize there have to be other guys we can rely on."

The freshmen played to Donovan's liking. He complimented their hustle play throughout the fall practices, and it carried over to Thursday night.

"I can't ever remember us taking or attempting as many charges as we did tonight," Donovan said.

PRATHER BREAKS OUT: The most impressive freshman debut came from small forward Casey Prather. He scored 10 points and pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds. He also had two steals.

"I'm not trying to compare him to Corey Brewer because he's not, but he has that kind of quickness and athleticism," Donovan said. "He has done that in practice. Casey didn't shoot the ball great, but he rebounded and got on the break a few times. He got a few steals and finished around the basket. You can see the athleticism. He's a guy that's only going to get better."

Donovan knows that his freshman won't get caught up in his big night. Instead, he expects Prather to refocus on his role for this team, which actually comes on the defensive side of the ball.

"He understands that he has to guard and be a defensive stopper," Donovan said. "Scoring has to be secondary to him, and I think he understands that."

WILBEKIN INJURED: Backup point guard Scottie Wilbekin "played well" in his five minutes in the first half. He didn't return after suffering a strained neck.

"He was cleared to play in the second half and he was hurting," Donovan said. "I felt like we didn't have a lot of depth in our back court, and there wasn't a reason to risk it."

BOYNTON SHOOTING IMPROVEMENTS: Kenny Boynton's new shot paid dividends in the exhibition opener. Donovan could only recall one bad shot out of the 15 he took all night. Boynton went 10-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line.

"He was much more efficient on offense. He was a high volume shooter out of high school. He was very passionate and aggressive. But I think his understanding for the game… I don't know the last time where he's got 15 shots but been efficient."

With as good as Boynton's shot looked, point guard Erving Walker's struggled as much. He went 1-of-8 from the field and 0-of-5 from behind the three-point line. The head coach saw Walker going back to bad habits.

"I think this is a great game for Erving because I feel like, in terms for shooting the ball, he reverted a little bit to last year," Donovan said. "He over penetrated and got too deep in the lane. He's been playing great in practice. This is totally uncharacteristic of the way he had been playing. This will be a good film for him to watch."

YOUNG FOULS OUT: Freshman center Patric Young's debut was spoiled by fouls. He thought it had something to do with too much emotion and excitement around his Florida debut, but his aggression caused him to foul out late in the second half.

"I actually was shocked he got 20 minutes. I thought he would have fouled out in ten," Donovan quipped. "The one thing you can do with a player with that energy, physicality and passion… He stepped up and took some charges that a lot of guys would have moved out of the way of. We've been a team that has moved out of the way in the past few years. You can always harness that (energy) back. I think it's a lot more difficult to make a guy more aggressive and tougher."

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