No. 7 Florida ruled out its leading scorer Monday, saying Prather won’t play against Georgia. The senior forward is still dealing with pain and swelling, and coach Billy Donovan has no timetable for his return.
“He still has issues,” Donovan said. “He’s getting better. He’s progressing. When he’ll be available to play, I don’t know.”
Prather, who is averaging 17 points a game this season and leads the Southeastern Conference in shooting at 62.4 percent, sat out Saturday’s 84-82 overtime victory at Arkansas. Dorian Finney-Smith started in his place and finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Finney-Smith likely will replace Prather in the starting lineup again.
“It just means that other people need to step up,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “I know you guys have heard coach (Donovan) say all he needs is five guys to go out there, and we have the same mindset as a team. I wish he was going to be out there playing with us, but if he’s not, then we’ve just got to go out with what we’ve got. And I’m confident that we can win without him.”
The Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) have won 24 in a row at home, tying the school record set between March 2006 and November 2007. They have won 11 straight at home against the Bulldogs (8-6, 2-0).
Florida also has won seven straight and 12 of 13, the lone loss a buzzer-beater at then-No. 12 UConn in early December.
The 6-foot-6 Prather has been a big reason for the team’s success. After averaging just 6.2 points a game last season, Prather has found a role as a slashing player who gets easy baskets in transition and gets to the free throw line on a regular basis.
He also is averaging 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in nearly 30 minutes a game. And he’s one of the team’s better defenders.
“For any player, it would be frustrating, but especially for him,” guard DeVon Walker said. “He’s had like an amazing season. He understands that it’s part of the process; you’re going to get hurt sometimes. But he’ll be back soon enough, so it’s good.”
One player who might not play anytime soon is highly touted forward Chris Walker.
Walker, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Bonifay, is enrolled in school and practicing with the team but still awaiting NCAA clearance. The NCAA is investigating whether Walker violated college amateurism rules during the recruiting process.
When asked whether he was frustrated by the delay, Donovan said “that’s a loaded question for me.”
“Right now, I have hope and optimism that a kid that has been totally forthright and honest and has given everything he possibly could, that the NCAA will do the right thing,” Donovan said. “I’m not at liberty to talk about all the things that are going on with him. ... It’s stuff that our institution is handling, and you just have hope and optimism that the NCAA is going to sit there and say, ‘You know what, this kid sat out some games, he’s been forthright, he’s been truthful and we’re going to get to a speedy decision on this thing.’”