Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
Melbourne United import Casey Prather says he feels younger and better ahead of his much-anticipated return to the NBL.
Speaking with NBL Media from the States before heading Down Under, Prather explained that a clean-out of his knee had resulted in a disappointing departure from Russian EuroLeague club BC Khimki last year.
However, the athletic wing believes the whole experience has offered a silver lining, claiming it has left him feeling better than ever.
“I actually feel a lot younger than I did prior to the surgery,” Prather said.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever felt one hundred percent, without any pains in my body. I feel really good.”
Unbeknown to most, Prather’s knee had actually been bothering him for years.
Throughout his previous stint in the NBL when he won three straight championships – two with Perth and one with Melbourne – it turns out his knee had been operating at less than one hundred percent.
“I didn’t think too much on it because it was just something that I’d gotten used to,” Prather explained.
“I always had some niggling pain but I feel like every basketball player goes through those things.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to rectify it now, while I’m in the prime of my career, and it has made me feel a lot younger and a lot better. I guess, in a way, it’s a blessing in disguise.”
— NBL (@NBL) July 25, 2019
Prather signed a two-year deal with United last month after reconnecting with head coach Dean Vickerman and CEO Vince Crivelli in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League.
His commitment will see him reunite with 2018 championship teammates Chris Goulding and David Barlow while teaming for the first time with fellow imports Melo Trimble and Shawn Long as part of a roster stacked with high-level talent.
“I think we’ve got a great group,” Prather said.
“Especially with the new imports coming in, Melo and Long… I mean, the guys before that were already pretty good and with the addition of me, I think I can come in and help those guys a lot.
“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be interesting. I think we’re going to take it far.”
Prather, of course, knows a thing or two about winning in the NBL. After all, he is the only player in league history to have won titles in three successive seasons immediately after entering the competition.
It’s a record he says is the result of a delicate mix of ingredients, including his own competitive DNA, the contributions of those around him and a pinch of good fortune.
“I just come out and play the way I play. I’m a proven winner, I know how to win,” he said.
“A lot of it has to do with my approach to the game and a lot of it has to do with my teammates. Also the coaching staff, in terms of how they organise the team, manage everyone and put us in a position to succeed.
“It also has to do with a bit of luck, honestly. [Winning three straight titles] is something that’s very hard to achieve so luck has a bit to do with it as well.”
Winning four championships in your first four seasons in the league is even harder to do. But Prather says he’s not even thinking that far ahead. He’s just enjoying being back on the floor.
“Coming off a year without really playing, I’m just excited about getting out there and competing,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve regained the passion for basketball, the actual true love of the game, through this process of being out.
“For me, this year is all about my team winning and me being one hundred percent healthy and feeling good. Actually wanting to give it my all because I can, because I feel good.
“There’s going to be a lot of excitement for me just because that pure passion and joy is there again.”
The man with the perfect track record is ?!
— NBL (@NBL) July 17, 2019
Prather averaged 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game during the 2018 NBL season, while putting up close to 50–40–80 shooting clips.
He played a major role in Melbourne’s maiden championship win, just as he did during the preceding couple of years in Perth.
Nonetheless, Prather says he expects to be even better this time around. At the offensive end, at least.
“I feel like I’ve improved every aspect of my game,” he said.
“My shooting consistency and my ball-handling, for sure. I’m going to have to make sure that my defence is on point because after not playing for a while, going back to playing competitive defence is going to be something that I’m going to have to get into.”
And will it be his former team, the Wildcats, who will present the greatest challenge to his stacked United squad?
“They’re the champions so they’re definitely going to be hungry to defend their title,” he said.
“They’re pretty high on the list but you have a lot of great teams in this league. Anyone can win so you’ve got to come with it each and every night.
“We’re going to just focus on us and what we can do to put ourselves in a situation to succeed.”
Handled like the proven winner that he is.
Prather is due to arrive in Melbourne midway through this month when he will begin on-court preparations with United for the upcoming season.