By Jon Rothstein
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Mike Rosario was never one not to enjoy the spotlight.
Not amongst his friends. Not in a class. And certainly not when it comes to basketball.
The former McDonald’s All-American from St. Anthony’s of Jersey City had to deal with one entire season fully out of focus once he transferred to Florida after spending the first two years of his college career at Rutgers.
For some people a year off would give them an opportunity to refine their games and recharge their batteries. For Rosario, it was pure agony.
“It was hard for him having to sit out a year,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said recently. “Mike was a little immature when he first got to Florida but he’s grown. He displayed a lot more focus towards the end of the last season and into the summer.”
That focus will be the key in ensuring that the second stop of Rosario’s collegiate career doesn’t wind up like the way his first one finished.
After earning just two Big East wins during his freshman year at Rutgers, Rosario and the Scarlet Knights managed five during his sophomore campaign but there was still something missing. Known in high school for a tenacious work ethic and a knack for taking and making big shots, Rosario’s play hit a major plateau.
All of sudden, he was too comfortable and too complacent. The killer instinct he once displayed that made him one of the nation’s most sought after recruits had dissipated into a combination of bad shot selection, poor leadership, and lackluster defense.
Rosario needed a change and Donovan welcomed him.
“We had some depth issues in our back court at the the time and that attracted us to Mike,” Donovan said. “The big thing that you always tell transfers is that when they get to their second stop, you always find out if they were the problem initially or was it the situation they left. With the way things worked out at Rutgers, Mike has to take some of the responsibility. I’m sure Mike thought when he went there he would be there for a year or two and be the man and then be in the NBA. Now he comes to Florida and he needs to understand that individual accomplishments have already been achieved during his career. The only way to change the perception of himself is if we win.”
And the Gators should be in prime position to do just that. Rosario joins two back court starters from last year’s team that lost to Butler in the Elite Eight in Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton as well as freshman wing Bradley Beal, who could wind up being the best all-around first-year player in college basketball. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin is also expected to play major minutes, giving Donovan five potential perimeter players that could challenge for major minutes.
“They’re all going to have to sacrifice at some point,” Donovan said of his back court. “I’ve told them repeatedly that our goal should be to lead the nation in assists.”
That type of sentiment and mindset would likely have never crossed Rosario’s mind a few years ago — but times have changed.
Now older and more mature, his time to recreate his image is right now and the only way to do that is simple — win.
“I’ve told him he could be the best illustration of what it means to give for your teammates,” Donovan said. “We’ll see if it happens.”
Will a more mature Rosario thrive at Florida? Let Rothstein know in the comments below…