No one would argue that the Florida Gators basketball team is going to be guard-heavy this season. Aside from questions about how the frontcourt will support their high-scoring counterparts, plenty remains to be seen from two of Florida’s newest scoring threats – freshman sensation Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario.
Head coach Billy Donovan’s most lauded recruit since point guard Nick Calathes, Beal was ranked as the No. 4 player in the country by Rivals and, at 6’4” and 195 lbs., has the size to penetrate as well as the stroke to hit shots from the perimeter.
Discussing what Beal brings to the table during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday, Donovan raved about his character more so than his immense talent.
“Brad is a very, very unique kid. He’s probably as mature as any freshman I’ve had come in here. He’s got a really, really good understanding of team chemistry,” he explained. “The one thing that I admire is, when you have a high-profile player come in, when there’s a level of humility and respect and understanding that there are some guys here before you arrived that have been successful and have had the opportunity to accomplish a lot of different things throughout their career.
“Brad’s not the kind of the guy that’s coming in here, ‘I’m taking your job. I’m starting.’ He’s not that way at all. He really understands the importance of chemistry. He understands the importance of being unselfish.”
As talented as Beal is, Donovan has already identified one area in which he needs to push him early and often before the regular season gets underway.
“In terms of his work ethic, in terms of hits talent and what he can bring to our team, he’s certainly very gifted. Like all freshmen, there will be some growth, some ups and downs. It’s not always going to be easy. I do think he’s very competitive. He’s highly motivated and driven, and I think he’ll be a good addition to our team.”
Beal is confident that the praise he received coming out of high school will not play into how he conducts himself on the court in college. “Honestly, all of that doesn’t matter anymore. That was high school, and now I’m in college. And Coach Donovan has told me that before, and it stuck with me. The McDonald’s All-American stuff doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just focusing on what he wants me to do,” he said.
Unlike Beal, Rosario was with the Gators last year but was unable play due to NCAA transfer rules. Averaging nearly 17 points per game during his sophomore season with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Rosario is used to being his team’s top scorer. He will have a different role with Florida in 2011-12 and going forward.
“Mike made a decision to stay close to home. There was a lot of expectations he had placed on himself as being a local guy to help raise Rutgers’ basketball team. Like all these guys wanting to someday play in the NBA, he thought there was a route or a vision he was going to take,” Donovan said.
“He’s a guy that has scored a lot of points in college but his teams haven’t won in college at the level that he probably wanted to. He’s coming into a situation where he realizes there are other good players here on our team that he’s got to fit in with.”
Donovan’s hopes Rosario can continue learning to share the ball while simultaneously ensuring that he maintains a level of consistency.
“We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though. He’s got to come every single day with an understanding that he’s got to continue to grow, develop, work and get better,” Donovan said.
“There’s a reason he’s no longer at Rutgers. It didn’t work out. There is lot of room that he needs to grow as a person and as a player. If it was going really well for him with all the minutes he was getting at Rutgers, he would have stayed there. There’s some things he’s got to get better at as a player. Part of that is just being a regular guy every single day that comes to work. Sometimes Mike, emotionally, can be up and down, up and down. He’s got to be more consistent for our team in that fashion.”
With so much emphasis placed on Florida’s backcourt this season, the development of Beal and Rosario will be paramount to the Gators’ level of success.