Most players would probably do whatever they could to forget a year like redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario had for the Florida Gators last season.
That’s not to say Rosario played that poorly – he averaged 6.6 points, 1.4 rebounds and an assist in 14.4 minutes per game while shooting career-best percentages from the field and downtown – but rather that the 2011-12 season was a major adjustment he may not have been completely ready to make.
Rosario had the ball in his hands and was relied upon by his Rutgers teammates to be the team’s primary scorer for the first two years of his college career. He averaged team-highs of 16.7 points and 33.7 minutes per game during his sophomore season but decided to transfer in order to challenge himself to become a better player just as the Scarlet Knights made a change in their coaching staff.
As Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv put it, “After two years of being catered and pampered to at Rutgers, he opted to transfer to Florida to play for Billy Donovan.”
“It was tough,” Rosario told Zagoria by phone this week. “It was tough because coming from the situation that I was at before, being the man and scoring all the points and playing 30 minutes a game, it was a road that I had to accept and it was for my team. And I accepted that role because at the end of the day it’s all about character and how you adjust to things. […] I wasn’t in the spotlight no more. A lot of guys don’t know how to adjust to situations like that and I felt like I carried myself the right way and I matured a lot since I got to Florida.”
That maturity did not come right away for Rosario. In addition to the numerous injuries he suffered throughout the season, his already-reduced minutes were cut even further than he had hoped early in the year for previously unspecified reasons.
According to his mentor and Puerto Rico Playmakers AAU founder Todd Washington, who also spoke with Zagoria this week, Rosario was still slacking off and failing to meet some of Donovan’s expectations in the gym.
“He recognizes now that he screwed up,” Washington said. “I just don’t think he took his responsibility as seriously as he should: coming late to meetings, not doing the necessary work in the gym, getting his body right.”
[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of this story.]Despite the speed bumps, Rosario showcased his increased level of maturity on the court later in the season. He played better defense, fought for rebounds and loose balls, took better shots (passing to teammates who may have had more open looks) and reduced his mental mistakes.
Washington notes that the strides Rosario already made under Donovan have translated to his international game and potentially increased this offseason.
“Three years ago when he came down [to Puerto Rico to train for the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship], he was all caught up in the nightlife and the girls,” he said. “I think the buzzer has finally gone off. I think he gets that this is it for him. He’s gotta make good on all the talent and all the expectations that he has.
“He’s a completely different dude than he was when he came down here three years ago.”
Playing alongside a group of talented players, Rosario hopes he makes the Puerto Rican team and has an opportunity to compete for a spot in the 2012 London Olympics but knows that the work he puts in this summer can have a much larger impact on his career.
“It doesn’t matter if I make the team or not,” he said. “It matters that I’m working still and I’m not home sitting around. Hopefully, I make the team because I’m working hard and I’m hungry right now. I’m hungry right now and I want to make this team so bad.”
Rosario is also hungry to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank, a good sign for a Gators team in need of both scoring and leadership next season.
“If this year I get to play as many minutes as I expect and do the things that coach needs me to do, I’m going to be the player that I need to be for my team,” he said. “I still have that killer instinct and that killer fire.”
Photo Credit: Associated Press[/EXPAND]