With No. 10 Florida Gators basketball set to resume action with a road contest against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday in its second-to-last game of 2011, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Wednesday to discuss what preparations he and the team are making for the squad’s next game.
ROSARIO ANTICIPATED BACK FOR HOMECOMING
Despite being declared “doubtful” last week and a person close to his family telling SNY.tv he was unlikely to play Thursday, redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is expected to be back on the court against his former team, Donovan said on Wednesday.
“I think right now he’s going to play. He went through practice on the 26th – he did do a full contact [Tuesday] although, through my own decisions, I pulled him in and out,” he said. “He’s still having some discomfort there but it’s not at the level it was. When you’re dealing with his back, it has to be how he feels a little bit and what he can handle.”
Rosario agreed with Donovan’s assessment, also saying Wednesday that he is “100 percent” and feels “way better than I felt two weeks ago.” He continued, “It’s a long process and it’s a long season. I feel as though I’m in a great position right now, and I’m just happy to be a Gator.”
Due to both his injury and what Donovan referred to as his mental state a few weeks back, Rosario has not see the court as much as he may have liked to this point. Nevertheless, he remains positive about his spot on the team going forward. “It’s not frustrating. I had a little setback because of my back,” he said. “When you have injuries before your conference play, you always want to take care of that because you want to make sure you’re 100 percent before conference play comes. By me taking those couple days off really helped me and got me ready for [Thursday’s] game.”
The fact that Rosario will be able to play against his former team is lost on him whatsoever. “It means a lot to go back home and play in my state, especially playing against a school I went to two years ago. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to go out there and just have fun and be able to play the game and have fun,” he said. “I’m just excited to go back up there and be able to play and have my friends and family and some of the people that I still speak to at Rutgers come out and see me play. The most important thing is to just go out there and have fun. I’m just anxious for the opportunity.”
Donovan is equally happy to have him back in the fold, especially considering how important he knows the game is to his player. “I do think that Mike is a valuable and important piece to our team. Keeping him healthy and having him available is important to our team,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions running through him – when you make a decision to transfer and leave and then all of a sudden your first year back playing you’re going back there to play.”
LEADING THE NATION FROM DOWNTOWN
Florida is currently No. 1 nationally in three-point shooting, but Donovan said he is even more pleased with the way the team has been finding sophomore center Patric Young
ever since the Arizona game a few weeks ago. He feels that the Gators’ realization that they need to play inside-out has opened up even more shots from downtown and helped the team be more consistent form that distance.
“It’s not about how many threes we get up, it’s about the shooting percentage,” he said. “If we’re shooting 40 percent from the three-point line, that’s a good thing. Where you get hurt a little bit is when you take a lot of three-point shots and you start shooting a percentage below 30 percent. Then it’s not good.”
Rosario is not surprised how well Florida is shooting from beyond the arc. In fact, he thinks the Gators should and will be hitting a higher percentage of its attempts from downtown as the season wears on.
“We work on shooting every day and coach loves when we run-and-gun, when we run up and down and shoot threes and just being a run-and-gun team. That’s something that we’ve been trying to take advantage of,” he said. “I think we should be shooting better from three, but time will tell. We’re in the gym every day taking a lot of shots and putting a lot of shots up. It feels good to be leading the nation behind the arc.”
Because he feels Florida will shoot even better and improve its defense and consistency from the line (see note and quotes section), Rosario believes the Gators are not close to the team they will be in March. “I really think you haven’t seen close to what this team will look like,” he said. “This team hasn’t reached our peak yet, and we’re still trying to find the little things that we need to win a championship. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan said some members of the team are suffering though illnesses. Redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson missed some time recently with a sore throat but returned to action against Florida State, and sophomore G/F Casey Prather is expected to be out of action Thursday due to being sick.
» Donovan on Florida’s competition up to this point in the season: “We’ve had a pretty good measuring stick going into the league [schedule]. We’ve played clearly two of the best teams in the country on the road. We learned a lot from both of those games. We played a Florida State team who is obviously long and athletic and big, and we played well in that game. The Arizona game there was some adversity. We didn’t play well, we frustrated ourselves, [but] we found a way to win that game. Texas A&M – going down [to Sunrise, FL] against a top-20 team, playing them.” He is pleased that the team has been exposed to various styles of play and competitive teams in great environments while participating in close games and having some of their weaknesses exposed.
» Rosario on what the team needs to improve: “Free throw shooting is the most important thing, but I think that we can be a very good defensive team. That’ something that we’ve been working on every day trying to get better at that. The opportunity is here. The season is here and it’s a great opportunity for us to go out and prove the nation wrong.”