Release Date: 11/3/1999
CLARKSVILLE, Ark. --- Patrick Prater doesn't posses particularly great leaping ability or a deft shooting touch. He isn't very tall by basketball standards and he isn't extraordinary quick. His talent and athletic ability would probably be characterized as average by most people.
But despite all of these rather ordinary traits, Prater will leave Ozarks as one of the top basketball players in the program's history.
Prater enters his senior season this year either already in the top 10 or close to breaking into the top 10 in just about every major career statistical category, including scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
The 6-foot-2 guard from Sherwood, Ark., is also a standout baseball player and was named Ozarks' Male Athlete of the Year last year. But basketball is the sport where he will leave his mark at Ozarks. He is a three-time all-conference pick and a living, breathing example of what hard work and determination can accomplish.
"Patrick is the type of player who hates to lose, and he will battle you to the end," said Ozarks Coach Johnny Johnson. "I've had a lot of players with more natural ability, but Patrick has had to work harder for what he's achieved. He doesn't do anything great, but he does a lot of things very well. He's just a super all-around player."
Prater has been a consistent scorer for the Eagles since stepping on campus in 1996 from Little Rock Parkview High. He has averaged 15.8, 14.2 and 14.6 points over the past three years and his 1,072 career points is 11th on the Eagles' all-time scoring list. By the time he's finished, Prater should be in the top five among the school's all-time scoring leaders.
"I don't consider myself a great shooter, but I feel like I can find a way to get the ball into the basket," Prater said. "I think a lot of scoring is just using your strength and being smart on the court, knowing how and where to get open for easy shots.'
There is no area that is a better testament to Prater's work ethic than the weightroom, where countless hours of lifting has helped increase his bench press from 200 pounds as a freshmen to 330 pounds as a senior. It is that type of attention to strength that has helped Prater amass 366 career rebounds, 69 away from cracking into the school's top 10 list. He is already eighth in career assists with 230 and he needs just 41 steals to become the school's all-time leader in that category.
"I don't really look at the career records right now, but I'm sure that's something I'll be very proud of one day," he said. "It would be nice to show my kids that I'm in the record books at Ozarks."
Johnson said Prater's accomplishment are even more remarkable considering that Prater played his career in NCAA Division III, which limits teams to 24 games a season.
"The other players on those (career) lists played in at least 30 games a year, so we're talking about 25 more games in a career," Johnson said. "Patrick has just been a very steady, dependable player for us since his freshman year."
Despite all the personal achievements, Prater has his sights set on an American Southwest Conference championship in his senior season. The Eagles return four starters --- Prater, forward Brian Henderson and guards Daniel Shepherd and Ricky Johnson --- from last year and have also added several talented newcomers for the 1999-2000 season.
"I think we have the talent and depth to go a long way this year," said Prater, a business administration major who plans to go into college coaching after graduating in May. "I don't think my career would be complete without a conference championship, so that's what I'm shooting for."