“He had a hip pointer and he was out for 10 days. That’s just mind-boggling to me. Ten days for a hip pointer? My daughter could work through that!”
In case you were wondering how frustrated Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan was with now-redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario one year ago, his thoughts on one of Rosario’s numerous injuries last season pretty much sums it up.
For a player who led his original team, Rutgers, in scoring each of the two years he played in his home state (16.5 points per game), Rosario was expected to be an immediate scoring threat for Florida and a player who would ensure that the Gators never had a lapse putting points up on the scoreboard.
Instead, Rosario was a model of inconsistency in his first year at UF, which led to him playing just 14.4 minutes per game and averaging only 6.6 points (though he did shoot a career-best 43 percent from the field). It was his inability to be dependable off the court and in practice that hurt him the most because when Rosario did see time and played responsibly by not making mental errors, he proved that he could be effective.
“His biggest issue and number one issue is inconsistently,” said Donovan while referring to Rosario as a redshirt junior. “Not only on the court, everywhere he’s inconsistent. He’s not responsible. He doesn’t take care. Last year the guy missed 25 practices and five games. Just to give you an idea, Erving Walker in four years missed one practice. Kenny Boynton missed one practice in three years. And neither one of those two guys missed a game. This guy missed five games in one year – and 25 practices!
“I think he needs to understand the responsibility he has to school, class, [being] on time, doing the things he needs to do and is supposed to do. And then on the court, practicing, playing the right way. If he does those things, I think he puts himself in a position with his ability to allow me to play him more as a coach and get out of it what he wants to get out of it.
“For Mike, there was maybe this expectation of, ‘I haven’t practiced in 10 days, but I had a really good practice before the day we’re playing. Why am I not playing?’ There are 12 guys that are practicing every day. You’ve missed a bunch of practice. You’re not playing. Any time you’re putting my credibility as a coach with the other 12 guys in jeopardy, you’re going to lose that battle.”
The good news for Rosario is that he appears to have done a 180 in terms of where his head is at heading into his final collegiate season.
Read the rest of this story on Mike Rosario…after the break!
“I would say the last three weeks for Rosario here has been the best three weeks he’s had since he’s been at Florida,” Donovan said Wednesday. “I think Mike’s made a real commitment to try and do those things. He’s a fifth-year senior. I want to see him get his degree. I want to see him graduate. I know he’s got aspirations to play the game professionally as they all do, which is great. But he also, for his teammates, needs to be reliable, accountable, responsible in practice, working hard, playing the right way and doing those things. If he does it, I think he can help.
“The one thing I always say about Mike is he’s a great kid. He’s got a really incredible personality. I think he realizes this is it for him. This is it. He’s got to do it.”
Rosario realized that over the summer when he got an opportunity to play for the Puerto Rico National Team that was hoping to earn a spot in the 2012 London Olympics. Donovan granted Rosario’s request and that decision paid off in two important ways.
The opportunity allowed by Donovan showed Rosario that his coach trusts him and wants to give him every possible chance to succeed. The player knew he had to pay him back and spent the entire summer doing just that.
“It feels great because I know how hard I am working because I want this year coming up to be a special one for me to remember,” he told SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria back in June. “I’m taking advantage of all opportunities. I have a very special gift that God gave me and that’s the talent to play basketball at the highest level I’m ready. Therefore, I want to thank my coach, Billy Donovan, for giving me the opportunity. This really means a lot to me and my future.”
Rosario, who wound up making the team but did not play in the Olympics as Puerto Rico fell in a preliminary tournament, had the chance to play behind a pair of NBA players but did not see many minutes. He saw first-hand how tough the level of competition is that he is hoping to play at some day and realized that now is the time to buckle down.
“[What] was very humbling for him was twofold: One, not getting a chance to play a lot and our team still able to have some significant success last year. And then also playing on the Puerto Rican National Team and having to back up two NBA players and play five minutes a game and understanding that maybe there is a bigger picture out there for him with the things that he needs to do as a player and as a teammate,” Donovan explained.
If Rosario can take his learned lessons and combine them with his basketball talent and the positive characteristics he already possesses, 2012-13 could be a very special year for the young man.
“The one thing I always say about Mike is that he’s always been a great teammate. Every guy wants to play more, but he’s always been a great teammate and he likes his teammates, he cares about them,” Donovan said. “He’s never been a guy that’s pouted on the bench. He’s never been a guy that’s extremely selfish. He’s not that kind of guy.”
And if Rosario can follow Donovan’s outline of what it will take for him to see the court more, be successful and help direct the Gators to another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it could be a very special year for the team as well.
“It’s just the everyday grind of the process. The process of going to class, going to tutoring, coming to practice, working hard when you’re tired, when you’re sore, when you don’t feel like doing it,” Donovan said. “I think sometimes in athletics you get measured more on what you do on days that you don’t feel well then on the days that you do feel well because most days you’re not going to feel well.”
Photo Credit: Associated Press