SEC Fresh Start: Mike RosarioPosted by Brian Joyce on November 7th, 2011
The Fresh Start series will profile a new coach or eligible transfer who will make an impact in the Southeastern Conference this season. The next player in the series is former Rutgers guard and new addition to the Florida Gators backcourt, Mike Rosario.
Mike Rosario is accustomed to being the star. He was the star at Rutgers where he averaged 16.2 PPG in his freshman season and 16.7 PPG in his sophomore year. As much as Rosario was scoring for the Scarlet Knights, though, his team wasn’t winning. Both of his seasons with Rutgers were losing campaigns, including winning a total of only seven Big East games in both years combined. For Rosario, transferring elsewhere represented a chance to win.
The Florida Gators represented greener pastures for Rosario. Florida will count on Rosario to be a leader for a team that has Final Four hopes, but that doesn’t mean it will be without scrutiny. Head coach Billy Donovan said, “Rosario is playing every second of practice but what happens when something doesn’t go well? That will be the true test.” The test is already in full effect. Rosario is part of a crowded backcourt with several stars. Returnees Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker both averaged over 14 PPG last year, while newcomer Brad Beal could be the best shooter of the four and figures to start alongside Boynton and Walker. Can Rosario deal with coming off the bench as a role player when he has been so accustomed to having the ball in his hands? Rosario certainly believes he is ready to take on the challenge.
“It’s a major adjustment for me, something new for me,” Rosario said. “I knew when I came here that there were three really good guards. I knew that I would have to have a different role. I know it’s not all about me. I just love being a part of this team, and I will do whatever it takes to make everyone better.” Rosario has done well thus far. In Florida’s first exhibition game, he came off the bench to score 18 points on four of seven shooting from beyond the arc. Donovan described him as a “crafty” player in his ability to get to the basket. But it’s not all offense that Donovan needs from his combo guard. He expects him to also step it up defensively.
“I want to embrace winning here for the two years,” Rosario said. “I feel like for us to accomplish our goals, it has to be on defense. We have to be a real scrappy, tough, hard-nosed team.” As long as Rosario continues to improve as a defender and a leader, he will make this Gator team much better. Everyone knows that the Gators can score, but can they defend too? And can everyone stay happy enough if the ball is usually in someone else’s hands? If the four prominent Florida guards learn to work together in the backcourt and commit to defense, Rosario and the rest of the Gators will be doing a whole lot of winning. And that is exactly what Mike Rosario came to Gainesville to do.