Perhaps no player on this season’s Florida Gator basketball team has been more scrutinized or talked about in the pre-season than Mike Rosario. The transfer from Rutgers has been somewhat underwhelming thus far in his time in Gainesville. A McDonald’s All-American from famed St. Anthony’s prep in New Jersey and a freshman All-American at Rugters, Rosario was the quintessential BMOC. A Jersey native son and and specialized sharp-shooter Rosario was a perfect fit for the home state school Rutgers. But when coaching change rumors began to float, Rosario left the comfort of home to hit the road down south to Gainesville to play for Billy Donovan.
In his first two seasons at Rutgers, Rosario averaged 32 minutes per game and 16.4 points per game. He was the offense at Rutgers. In his first season of game action at Florida after sitting out a season due to transfer requirements, Rosario’s minutes were limited to 14 per game and his scoring fell to 6.6 per game as he was relegated to bench duty. Hardly the prolific numbers of the go-to guy he was at Rutgers.
So how did he go from 5 star recruit and Big Man on Campus at Rutgers to barely used bench player at Florida? For starters, the competition at Florida was much better than it was at Rutgers. Secondly, and probably a bigger reason, inconsistency. Inconsistency in practice habits, in effort, in intensity, in life in general.
It’s an old story. The difference between a playground legend and an NBA star is consistency and effort. Playground legends just show up when they feel like it. They don’t work hard, they don’t put in the effort to become the best. In some ways this could describe Rosario. From St. Anthony’s Prep to Rutgers he was always the star, he never had to be accountable nor work for his playing time and responsibility.
All that changed when he got to Gainesville. Donovan expects a level of consistency and accountability in everything his players do. From being at practice every day on time, to giving consistent effort each day, every practice, to going to class and performing at a certain level. Billy recognizes that he’s not only a basketball coach but a life coach and if you want to be in his program and particularly if you want to see playing time then you must achieve his level of consistency and accountability. The “trust factor” that Billy preaches.
After a season where Rosario struggled to get playing time and struggled to achieve that consistency Donovan demanded, he’s finally starting to “get it”. After Donovan called him out on media day for missing practices for minor issues and not giving consistent effort, he has responded appropriately.
“Since media day when I made that comment, I’d say that his behavior, his accountability, his being responsible, I think has carried on through,” Donovan said. “I think he has a better understanding of the expectation level here on him. You know it really did make a difference.”
“As far as my trust level of him on the court it keeps growing and growing because he’s taking care of his responsibilities,” added Donovan ”As far as him playing hard, being here every day, not missing practice, his attitude, trying to be a positive guy each and every day.”
Donovan has rewarded that effort with his first start in the exhibition game against Nebraska-Kearney and a second start in the season opener against Georgetown. It’s important that Rosario gets the accountability and trust factors Donovan talks about as the Gators will need him to step up his level of play this season with the loss of Erving Walker and Bradley Beal two of the Gators three leading scorers from last season. They will need his scoring ability, they will need him to be less careless with the ball, and they will need his effort on defense and in rebounding. He can be an integral part of this team, but only if continues to achieve the level of consistency he’s been showing on the court so far and continues the maturation process.